Delaware State University is bringing star power to its virtual commencement ceremony to celebrate the Class of 2020.
The online graduation celebration Saturday, May 16th will now feature former Vice-President and presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden, as well as the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson - a Milton, Delaware native.
Singer-actress Vanessa Williams, Grammy-winning R&B artist Erykah Badu, and political analyst Angela Rye are also scheduled to appear.
“We knew better than to try to copy the traditional ceremony at Alumni Stadium,” said Commencement Planning Committee co-chair Dr. Francine Edwards in a statement. “So we set out to create a memorable and surprising experience that the Class of 2020 will treasure forever as their own unique celebration.”
DSU spokesperson Steve Newton said the planning committee reached out to established contacts to get the commitments.
"If you stop and think about it, there wasn’t an awful lot of time to put this together and cold-calling people is not the most effective way to get them," Newton said. "Because we were not only asking people to participate, but basically produce these to our specifications and get them to us. And so, we reached out to connections that our folks had."
Newton said it’s become a labor of love for the planning committee.
"I know that most of the people involved in the production have been doing their regular jobs and working on this graduation production on nights and weekends beyond that to make just the best product that they can do," Newton said.
Newton adds they haven’t revealed all the guests who will appear to leave some surprises.
Dover native and CBS3 Philadelphia news anchor Ukee Washington will give the keynote address. His father, the late Dr. Ulysses S. Washington was a the longtime chair of DSU's Department of Agriculture and taught and lived on campus for 50 years.
Nearly 700 graduates, the largest class in school history, were slated to walk during a traditional ceremony. That group includes the school’s first group of Dreamers, children of undocumented workers in the country under the DACA program.
But, the COVID-19 pandemic forced D-S-U classes online and canceled all events for the rest of the semester, including commencement.
The virtual commencement ceremony is slated to begin at noon on May 16th.