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News, Stories
May 12, 2021

North Park University Successfully Completes the 2020–2021 Academic “Year Like No Other”

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Together, we did it!

With thanksgiving and glory to God, we offer congratulations to our North Park graduates, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends. We have completed this very challenging 2020–2021 academic year safely and successfully—and with much to celebrate as we head into summer.

The glorious scene on campus on Saturday, May 8, celebrated the graduating class of 2021, with FOUR consecutive in-person commencement ceremonies on the field of the Holmgren Athletic Complex. By the end of the day, 447 degrees were conferred upon 445 graduates—293 undergraduate and 154 graduate degrees!

The remarkable achievements of this resilient class will be forever noted as part of the rich history and strength of our university. Our graduates displayed the persistence and perseverance to succeed. We have much to be grateful for, and much to respect and admire in this outstanding class.

If you could not attend this past Saturday, I encourage you to join the celebration at 10 am on Saturday, May 15, 2021, for the full Virtual Commencement Ceremony at

As one of the few universities in the Chicago area to pursue an in-person commencement, it was a fitting wrap to this academic year and provides acceleration and momentum to propel us forward.

2020–21 Reflections 

With hope in God’s protection and provision, and the courageous endorsement of our Board of Trustees, we reopened our campus in the fall of 2020, kept Covid-19 cases to a minimum, and worked together to ensure educational progress. In December we celebrated a very moving virtual Festival of Lessons and Carols: “A Light in the Darkness.” We returned in January for a spring semester that was even safer and provided an even more vibrant campus life, including a fire pit, hot chocolate, snowball fights, Viking athletics, and concerts.

Our gratitude and respect go to our Pandemic Response Team for their thoughtful, comprehensive planning and careful execution of our Covid-19 plan. That group, comprising a few dozen faculty, staff, and senior cabinet members, worked tirelessly all year to create the best possible learning and living environment for both remote and in-person learners. They monitored every guideline and case number and adjusted policies successfully. Our students faithfully observed the safety protocols, focused on their studies and campus activities, and helped each other keep moving. It was North Park community collaboration at its best.

What a year it has been!

  • In April, loyal North Park alumni and friends mounted a triumphant Blue and Gold Day, raising $225,184 for student scholarships.
  • Last week, 501 students were committed to North Park for Fall 2021 by College National Decision Day—up from 384 students this time last year. 
  • We jumped 22 spots in the 2021 Midwest regional rankings of U.S. News; ranked 14th of 87 Midwest schools in social mobility; and we were one of only 17 Midwest schools cited for “Best Undergraduate Teaching” by our peers.
  • We are creating our future together through North Park Next with a collaborative, campus-wide strategic review of all our programs and resources. 
  • And, thanks to great work and community participation, we had a very positive campus experience with our HLC on-site visit for reaffirmation of our accreditation—and we await a final report at the end of June.

And it all culminated in our Commencement celebration on May 8!  Now we head into summer with strong momentum and high hopes for a close-to-normal semester for students in the fall.

Thanks to all for a job well done! To paraphrase the message painted atop one North Park graduate’s mortar board Saturday: 

We did our best—God did the rest!

Mary K. Surridge


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