Shay Walczak of Monmouth Beach graduates UW-Madison

Shay Walczak, of Monmouth Beach graduated recently from the University of Wisconsin-MadisonCollege of  Letters and Science, Bachelor of Science, Economics.

Nearly 8,500 students received degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison during a unique online commencement ceremony on May 9.

The ceremony, forced online because of the Coronavirus pandemic, was for doctoral, bachelor’s, master’s and law graduates.

Best-selling author James Patterson, the commencement speaker, counseled graduates on persistence and resilience, telling them, “Hey, it’s hard now, but it’s been hard before. When I graduated from college, the war in Vietnam was raging, there was a draft . . . When my dad graduated, he got shipped off to Europe and WW II.”

Chancellor Rebecca Blank praised graduates for the way they handled their unprecedented final semester – in-person instruction ended in March — and she thanked their family and friends for helping them through it all.

Some graduates will face a longer job search than expected, Blank said. Others will face personal pain from unexpected family loss or will end up doing very different things next year than they might have expected.

“But when we are past this crisis, you will also see many new opportunities – opportunities to re-engage the economy, to re-build personal connections, and to figure out how to live together in ways that reduce the threat of future pandemics,” Blank said. “Our world will change permanently because of this global shared experience. Your diploma from this great public university is your ticket to be part of that change.”

In addition to Saturday’s virtual ceremony, numerous famous Badger alumni posted shout-outs on social media, including soccer star Rose Lavelle, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and Tony Award-winning actor Andre De Shields, who sang a bit for graduates. On May 8, the UW Athletic Department lit Camp Randall and the Kohl Center in red to honor the Class of 2020.

To ease the sting of the last few months, the Wisconsin Union announced it would provide all graduates with lifetime memberships – a first in the association’s more than 110-year history. Additionally, the Wisconsin Alumni Association is giving graduates two free years of membership.

For more information about UW-Madison, visit

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