- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2020

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Commencement was bittersweet for University of Iowa graduates who were forced to leave campus early amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Gazette reports that Provost Monsterrat Fuentes addressed upfront the impersonal nature of Saturday’s virtual convocation for the university’s largest College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in a recorded message.

“We are all heartbroken that we can’t be together in person on this special day, and that you are not enjoying the grand celebration you deserve, surrounded by your peers, family, friends, and the faculty and staff who have cheered you along the way,” Fuentes said.

The college’s student speaker - Student Government President Noel Mills - said her first experiences at the university were in the pediatric oncology unit of the hospital where she was treated for cancer.

She said she learned an important lesson: “To be a Hawkeye is to not be overwhelmed by the obstacles ahead. But to find strength in the struggle.”

Ceremonies were also held virtually last week for graduates of Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa amid the pandemic. Johns Hopkins University was reporting 336 deaths and 14,000 cases in the state Saturday, although the number is believed to be low because of limits in testing.

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