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With virtual pomp amid unprecedented circumstances, USC celebrated its first-ever online graduation Friday, conferring degrees on 19,832 members of the Class of 2020, as the coronavirus crisis forces universities throughout the country to postpone the grandeur of traditional ceremonies and instead attempt small-screen celebrations.

USC was one of the first universities in California to roll out a virtual graduation, marking efforts to give graduates some sense of accomplishment and joy amid the disappointment of their canceled mega-event on a packed campus.

President Carol Folt, wearing a ceremonial cardinal robe and her gold presidential medallion, greeted viewers online from around the world as her mask-wearing staff looked on. She spoke from her campus office, alluding to the letdown and assuring graduates that USC would hold a real commencement as soon as it was safe to do so.

“This is a ceremony for the record books, and you’re lucky you’ll get a second ceremony, I promise, in person,” Folt said. “Like all of you, I imagined we’d be under a blue sky this morning, strolling the well-traveled paths across campus. The picture today is quite different, but the important thing is, whether in person or virtually, we’re coming together to celebrate.”

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