A year after the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled the college’s plans for commencement, the college responded with a triumphant comeback: an unprecedented series of virtual and in-person commencement ceremonies that gave every student the opportunity to celebrate the milestone they had worked so hard to reach.
Despite the tremendous challenge of hosting a large in-person event during a pandemic, FIT held ceremonies for the classes of ’20 and ’21 and their families in New York’s Central Park, June 2 and 3. To maintain appropriate distance between graduates, eight events with limited attendance took place over the two days.
Emmy-winning actor Debra Messing, whose iconic Will and Grace character, Grace Adler, graduated from FIT, shared a message of congratulations in a video projected on stage. “We need you more than ever to create beauty and originality to wake us up again, because we have all been hibernating,” she said. “I can’t wait to see all of the designs you are going to bring out to all of us. And I can’t wait to buy them.”
President Joyce F. Brown spoke to the graduates about perseverance. “In the face of an unfathomable and unfair fate, you focused on your future,” Dr. Brown said. “Step by step, you walked through uncharted territory, you adapted, you faced down setbacks and disappointments … and in the end, you completed your studies.”
It is rare that a SUNY chancellor attends an FIT commencement, but Chancellor Jim Malatras delivered his remarks in person: “I know that this past year has been one of the most challenging in recent history but with grit and determination, you persevered; and through your creativity and studies continued to bring beauty and grace to the world.”
The Central Park events took place on the heels of an array of virtual commencement ceremonies, May 19 for the School of Graduate Studies (classes of ’20 and ’21), May 20 for undergraduates from the class of ’21, and May 21 for undergraduates from the class of ’20. Every graduate had the opportunity to submit a brief celebratory video—and to keep the ceremonies to a reasonable length, 36 separate events were produced, each honoring a fraction of the total number of graduates.
Tracee Ellis Ross, star of Black-ish, executive producer of Mixed-ish, and founder of haircare company PATTERN, delivered the virtual keynote. In her enthusiastic speech, she praised the work of creators as fuel for her own creativity.
“What unites everyone graduating here today is creativity,” she said. “That is what brought you to FIT. You all are dream weavers … the spice rack of our lives. I can tell you from experience that we need people who are professionally bilingual. Who speak both design and business, creativity, and commerce. So whether you end up on the creative side or the business side of the industry, you will have an opportunity to use your talent as a gateway into changing perceptions.”
Kory Marchisotto, CMO of e.l.f. Beauty, offered inspiration to the graduates of the School of Graduate Studies. “You chose to invest in you, and your future self is grateful—trust me,” she said.