Message from the Master on Graduation Day

In normal times today would have been Graduation Day for those of you who’d finished your undergraduate studies. We’d have been processing together to the Senate House, where Keith would have presented you in impeccable Latin, you’d have knelt before me, I’d have clasped your hands and conferred your degree. Outside there would have been congratulations and photographs, and the celebrations would have continued at a lavish garden party in College. A day of pomp and ceremony, relief and euphoria, and a much-deserved sense of achievement shared with your friends and family.

Alas, this year the coronavirus has thwarted us. I’m so sorry we can’t be together and that for the moment you’re missing out on one of the very special experiences of life at Cambridge. As you know, we’re doing everything we can to re-schedule the event next year, both for those of you who have chosen to graduate in absentia and those of you who have chosen to postpone. We will, as they say, meet again.

In the meantime, I want to say huge congratulations to you. Getting a Cambridge degree is an enormous achievement, the result not just of sustained hard work but also of determination, resilience, talent and imagination. You have been tested academically, challenged personally and stretched emotionally – and come through it triumphantly. Well done!

Not only that, but you’re the first cohort to overcome the extra demands of a final term lived under lockdown and exams taken online. Thank you for your adaptability and patience with this - not only for coping with the additional burden and surviving trial by Zoom and Teams, but also for being deprived of May Week and all its delights. In the long term I hope the good memories of eight terms (eleven for some of you) with friends in the Downing community outweighs the one term spent isolated at home.

So yes, your timing was terribly unlucky, but your achievement is all the greater. Congratulations again, I wish you every success in whatever comes next, and I very much look forward to seeing you again in person next year.

Alan Bookbinder, Master of Downing College


Feature image: Downing's Senior Officers in a virtual meeting this term.

Hero image: gowns at Downing's 2019 General Admission by Martin Bond.


Published 26 June 2020.