Our 50th annual Awards and Commencement Ceremony took place on Sunday, May 17, 2020 as a virtual event. Trustees, faculty, staff, families, and friends gathered online to celebrate our seniors’ academic accomplishments. The ceremony was followed by a virtual reception in honor of the Class of 2020 and their families. Participants joined in a virtual toast via Zoom.

This year the University is honored to have welcomed as its 2020 Keynote Speaker Pio Wennubst, Ambassador & Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) in Rome; he is the Vice Director and Head of the Global Corporation Sector of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation. His extensive experience in development and diplomacy has brought him to work with organizations and governments across the globe, including in Bolivia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Italy and the United States. Ambassador Pio Wennubst received a Ph.D. Honoris Causa in Humanities for his tireless contributions to the principles espoused in the mission of the university: civil discourse and collaborative leadership through his diplomatic missions, public advocacy, and his work for the Blue Peace: water as an asset for peace Organization.

Ambassador Wennubst's message to the graduating class spoke of the strong qualities that a Franklin graduate builds while a student and explored the paradox that is created between the fear of the unknown and the need to be free of the known. He said of a Franklin education, “Franklin...tries to help you in getting to learn how to work with these two elements of the paradox at the same time. On the one hand is learning, helping you to learn how to be innovative, to dare, to try new things...on the other hand it's also telling you, 'Don't be complacent. Don't become dogmatic. Don't think you know it all,' because you will not know everything. I don't know everything. Nobody knows everything.

On this unique occasion in Franklin’s history, President Greg Warden addressed viewers with a positive message of hope for the future and expressed his pride in the student community. He reminded us all that, although this year has already brought new challenges to overcome, they only highlighted the resilience of our students. Falcons have shown great compassion, strength, and purpose. “Use your education to bring positive change to the world… through this challenge, you will prosper.”

Chairman of the Board of Trustees Kim Hildebrandt encouraged students in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, reminding them that they will "play a major role in what it takes to rebuild the world community after this reset."

The highlight of the ceremony was a virtual art exhibit of paintings curated by 2020 Valedictorian Daniela Baiardi Perez. She also received the Art and Art History Award and the Gerta Holman Award. FUS congratulated Daniela on her exemplary trajectory at Franklin, a tenacious, diligent, and creative personality that has brought inspiration to the art and art history department.

In her address, Daniela described how each piece in the collection represents the class of 2020 and the gorgeous setting of Lugano, both of which she has come to appreciate in a new light. Her speech, titled “Ways of Seeing,” opened to a bright-colored watercolor by Hermann Hesse, titled “Landscape in Ticino.” Daniela remarked, “To be able to see your classmates and friends grow to be who they are right now, it’s something very amazing and life-changing. We’ve made a lot of memories and will always have them to go back to.”

Franklin’s 2020 graduates are invited back to Lugano in May 2021, to walk with next year’s graduates in the 2021 commencement. Join us to catch up with good friends and make a few more memories.