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Class of 2020 reunites for delayed Commencement ceremony

The Washington University in St. Louis Class of 2020 was all smiles at Commencement. (Photo: Danny Reise/Washington University)

The first time Joe Beggs graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, he was alone in his St. Louis apartment, watching Chancellor Andrew D. Martin’s recorded address on YouTube.

“It was hardly the Commencement I dreamed about,” Beggs said. “When Andrew Martin said, ‘Will the graduates please stand?’ I stood up in my boxers and my cap and flipped my tassel. Today was better.”

Joe Beggs has launched two companies in the Cortex Innovation Community. Six members of his family have earned their degrees from Washington University. (Photo: Danny Reise/Washington University)

Beggs was among the nearly 1,400 members of the Class of 2020 to return to campus on Sunday, May 30, to celebrate an in-person Commencement on Francis Olympic Field. This time, he wore full regalia and a special medallion signifying his role as a student marshal for the McKelvey School of Engineering.

“I actually cried. I was not prepared for the emotion I felt,” said Beggs, who earned a degree in biomedical engineering and has launched two companies in the Cortex Innovation Community. “This is such a special day for me and my family. We wanted to be here together.”

Graduate Greigory Dimailig also was overwhelmed by his return to campus.

Greigory Dimailig reunited with members of the WashU Bears track team. (Photo: Danny Reise/Washington University)

“Listening to the chancellor, it finally hit me — we’ve all graduated,” said Dimailig, who earned an economics degree from Arts & Sciences and is now attending medical school at the University of Wisconsin.

Dimailig was at the NCAA track-and-field championships in North Carolina last year when the team got word that the university would close in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like so many students, he was devastated to learn he would not have a chance to say goodbye to his friends and professors.

“I was like, ‘How can this be the end of my senior year?’” Dimailig recalled. “I won’t say this fully repairs it, but it’s great to be here together.”