Commencement 2021

Celebrating the Class of 2021

Photos by Nick Caito and Sarah McCoy

Jeffrey A. Flaks
Jeffrey A. Flaks

“The pandemic has taught us that we can’t go back to the way things were, nor should we want to. You are too good, too smart, and too wise to go back to normal. You will make a future that is better than normal,” Hartford HealthCare President and CEO Jeffrey A. Flaks said to the graduates of the Trinity College Class of 2021 during his Commencement address.

To maintain low density and physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Trinity held two consecutive ceremonies on May 21. Following a year unlike any other at the college, graduates receiving their bachelor’s or master’s degrees were seated with up to two invited guests in separate groups spread out on the Main Quad.

Flaks, who spoke at both ceremonies, has helped the state navigate the challenges of the global pandemic by overseeing extensive testing and vaccination outreach. In recognition of his distinguished career and contributions to the health care field, Trinity presented Flaks with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Giovanni Armani Jones ’21, president of Trinity’s Student Government Association and the graduate selected to be the student speaker, said the Class of 2021 represented strength and resilience. “We’ve not only made it through college, but we have also made it through a pandemic,” Jones said. “COVID-19 has taken a lot away from us but has also given us new perspectives and lessons.”

In her charge to the graduates, Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney celebrated the triumphs and perseverance of the Class of 2021. “You all are bound together by the unusual circumstances of the year,” Berger-Sweeney said as she left the graduates with questions to consider. “What effect did these shared experiences have on the bonds you have with one another? During this time of COVID-19, how did your relationships with others in the Trinity community change? What shared bonds will draw you back, 10, 20, or even 50 years from now, to reminisce with your classmates about these extraordinary times?”      

Samantha McCarthy of Washington was named valedictorian. She earned a B.A. summa cum laude with honors in sociology and a minor in community action. The salutatorian was Thomas C. McKinney of California, who earned a B.A. summa cum laude in economics with a minor in history.

In addition to Flaks, 2021 honorary degrees also were presented to: Philip O. Geier, co-founder of the Davis United World College Scholars Program and creator of Projects for Peace; Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy and Paul W. Horn Distinguished Professor and the Political Science Endowed Professor in Public Policy and Public Law at Texas Tech University; and Philip S. Khoury ’71, associate provost and Ford International Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former trustee and vice chair of the Trinity College Board of Trustees.          

Trinity also celebrated the 2020 honorands. Last year, the pandemic prevented the college from hosting a full in-person Commencement when, in honor of the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Trinity, the institution was to have bestowed honorary degrees on the first four women to receive undergraduate degrees from Trinity, in 1970. They are: Trinity College Professor of Theater and Dance, Emerita, Judy Dworin ’70; Elizabeth Martin Gallo ’70; Judith Odlum Pomeroy ’70; and Roberta Russell ’70, who passed away earlier this year and was awarded the honorary degree posthumously. Other 2020 honorands are Francisco L. Borges ’74, chair and managing partner of Landmark Partners; the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, the 27th presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church (Curry received his honorary degree in May 2020, when he served as Baccalaureate speaker); and James Hanley and Peter McMorris, co-founders of Cinestudio, the art house cinema on the Trinity campus. Plans are underway for the Class of 2020 to be celebrated during Reunion Weekend 2022, June 10–12.


Trustee Award for Faculty Excellence: Professor of Mathematics David Mauro, Professor of Engineering Taikang Ning

Trustee Award for Staff Excellence: Learning Space Manager and Media Technology Specialist John J. Dlugosz; Assistant Vice President for Construction, Facilities, and Operations Tom Fusciello; Associate Director of Athletics for Compliance and Student-Athlete Welfare Kristen J. Noone M’07; History Department Administrative Assistant Georgene “Gigi” St. Peter

Trustee Award for Student Excellence: Jaymie Dawn Bianca, Vanessa Ross, Jeffrey P. Sagun, Ana Stambolic

The Thomas Church Brownell Prize for Teaching Excellence for 2021: Professor of Political Science Stefanie Chambers, Gwendolyn Miles Smith Professor of Philosophy Erik Vogt; for 2020: Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of History Cheryl L. Greenberg

The Dean Arthur H. Hughes Award for Achievement in Teaching for 2021: Visiting Lecturer in Political Science and Human Rights Benjamin C. Carbonetti, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Biology Amber L. Pitt; for 2020: Assistant Professor of Psychology Michael Grubb

Charles A. Dana Research Professorship Award: Professor of History and International Studies Dario A. Euraque

Charles A. Dana Research Associate Professorship Award: Associate Professor of Language and Culture Studies Kifah Hanna, Associate Professor of Psychology Laura J. Holt

Download the full Commencement program here

Awards and Distinctions 

2021 Honorary Degree Recipients 

Read the Commencement Speeches