The COVID-19 pandemic’s onset in 2020 disrupted innumerable plans and standards—including the traditional Michigan Stadium commencement ceremonies. On May 7, 2022, a special Comeback Commencement was held to give U-M’s winter 2019, spring and winter 2020, and 2021 graduates from the Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint campuses the chance to more properly commemorate their accomplishments.
Over 4,000 graduates were in attendance at the Big House for the unprecedented event, enjoying addresses from U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and honorary degree recipient Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden.
Alumni Association President and CEO Steve Grafton, who has announced his retirement after leading the organization for 28 years, also gave the following special words of celebration to alumni.
Thank you, President Coleman, and good afternoon! You know, although you’ve been experiencing it for a while, I am happy to congratulate you on your new status—you are alums of the University of Michigan!
As an alum, your status is permanent—you will be forever a member of the University of Michigan family. And there are opportunities and obligations that come with this status.
For instance, there will be opportunities for you to advance in your careers or in your future educational pursuits because your degree is from the University of Michigan. It will make a difference. Along with that opportunity is the obligation to be a leader—in your workplace and in your community. You’ve demonstrated that you have what it takes.
There will be opportunities, no matter where you find yourself, to network with other alumni. You know, there are over 640,000 of them around the world. I guess I should say 640,001, now that Dr. Fauci has his degree.
Along with the opportunity to network is the obligation to stay connected and to be involved with your University. There will be opportunities to return to this place and to be viewed by students who follow you as mentors. Please accept the obligation to stay in touch with your alma mater, with the Alumni Association, and with other members of your Michigan family, and to doing your part to help keep our university a world leader. Together, we will continue to make it possible for others to reach the milestone that you have reached today.
You know, as a student, many of you stood in this stadium, locked arms with each other, and swayed, and sang the alma mater after a football game. Today, you are going to sing it as alumni. And I hope, as you do, you will think about it differently, and you’ll think about your part in the Michigan family.
For instance, you’re going to sing, “Hail to the colors that float in the light/ Hooray for the Yellow and Blue.” And I want you to know that you are those colors that float in the light, always representing Michigan wherever you go. And with the skills and capabilities that you gained here at the University of Michigan, you can use those colors to paint a brighter and better world.
You’ll sing, “Yellow the moon o’er the harvest wains.” As alums of the University of Michigan, you will be in positions to influence the harvest of future generations. I hope you will shine a bright light that helps them and others find their way.
So, I encourage you to sing the song proudly, and join me when I raise my hand. Today it is to celebrate your accomplishment and to indicate you are part of the Michigan family.
So again, congratulations, welcome to the alumni family, and Hail to you, the Victors, the Leaders and Best, the Yellow and Blue—forever go and be Blue!
For a recap of the other Comeback Commencement speeches and photos, visit The University Record.