Alfred University president

Alfred University’s president, Mark Zupan, addresses the university’s Class of 2020 during a virtual graduation ceremony on Saturday.

ALFRED — Alfred University, which postponed its annual spring commencement ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, held a virtual celebration Saturday to honor members of the Class of 2020.

The university was to have hosted its commencement ceremonies Saturday, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the University to cancel or postpone on-campus events. The university plans an on-campus commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020, including December graduates, on Dec. 19.

Sunday’s virtual celebration also honored spring graduates from Alfred University’s AU-NYC programs, who on June 18 will receive degrees in counseling, public administration and mental health counseling. The AU-NYC graduation ceremonies were also postponed due to COVID-19.

Alfred students went home in March and completed the remainder of their studies in an online format. During Saturday’s celebration, Mark Zupan, Alfred University president, praised students for their ability to adapt to and persevere.

“It is an honor to be with you this morning to celebrate the Class of 2020,” Zupan said. “We are so happy for you and proud of you, and so grateful for the resiliency you’ve displayed for the last two months. I applaud and commend you, and our faculty and staff, for rising to the occasion. You’ve done us immensely proud.”

Peter Cuneo, Class of 1967, was the keynote speaker. Cuneo, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees and board chair emeritus, is renowned for turning around struggling businesses, among them Clairol, Black & Decker, Remington and, most notably, Marvel Comics.

“The most profound aspect of today is the world we live in, which has changed so drastically over the past couple of months — a world that certainly the older generations never expected to experience,” Cuneo said. “This will provide very unique challenges for our graduates as they go forth after commencement.”

Cuneo offered a historical perspective on how he envisions graduates meeting those challenges. He referred to King Alfred, the namesake of the university. Alfred, king of the Saxons, was known as the Education King for his promotion of learning, and also was known as a warrior king.

“In the past, a warrior meant someone who was very brave in battle. I think today, we use warrior to describe someone who is very committed to a particular cause or goal — someone who never gives up,” he said. “Alfred is sending its graduates out to be warriors tomorrow.”

Cuneo advised members of the Class of 2020 to take “measured risks” in their professional and personal endeavors. “Always think about reaching higher than you think you can go. You’ll be surprised and delighted by the results,” he said.

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