Oregon’s 144th commencement ceremony, set for June 20, will be different than any that came before it, in more ways than one.
It will take place during a global pandemic. It will be a virtual ceremony, conducted via live webcast, followed by prerecorded recognition of students. And it will feature a GOAT as the keynote speaker.
GOAT, of course, refers not to the barnyard animal but rather to the Greatest Of All Time, a title bestowed on Sabrina Ionescu, who in four years playing basketball for the UO set records, won hearts and blew minds with her fierce, indomitable and winning ways.
Ionescu, who herself is a member of the class of 2020, said she was “humbled and honored” to deliver the keynote address to her peers.
“I owe it to them,” she said. “They have impacted my life so greatly with the amount of support myself and the team have received from them. I hope my words can bring comfort and inspiration during this time. I’m hoping my words will create change.”
Ionescu is also is a commencement participant, working to complete a master’s degree this year in advertising and brand responsibility, a new one-year graduate program in the School of Journalism and Communication. She earned her bachelor’s degree in general social sciences in 2019.
“I am thrilled that Sabrina agreed to be our commencement speaker and help us celebrate the Class of 2020,” said UO President Michael H. Schill. “Like her fellow graduates, she has had to overcome disappointment and adversity during this pandemic, but she has displayed resilience and focus in ultimately achieving great things. She is an inspiration as a student and athlete, and I cannot wait to hear her speak.”
During her four-year playing career, Ionescu set numerous records, notably becoming the first college player, male or female, to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. She also became the most prolific producer of triple doubles, tallying at least 10 points, rebounds and assists in a game 26 times in her career, 14 more than any other player in the college game.
During her senior year, she became the face of college basketball and the subject of numerous profiles in the national media, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Athletic and ESPN. She also spoke at the memorial service for her friend and mentor, NBA great Kobe Bryant.
Ionescu was the unanimous 2019-20 national player of the year for women’s basketball and became the first Oregon student-athlete to win the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award as the nation’s most outstanding amateur athlete, just two of her many awards and accolades.
In April, Ionescu, a 5-foot-11-inch guard from Walnut Creek, California, was the first pick in the WNBA draft, going to the New York Liberty.
Students who wish to participate in June’s virtual ceremony need to register, following a link on the UO commencement page. Students who register by May 31 will receive a special 2020 Celebration Box. Students also can personalize their graduation slide, which will be shown during the school and college ceremonies.
The virtual commencement starts at 9 a.m. June 20 with a live webcast. A second, in-person commencement for the class of ’20 is set to take place in June 2021.