The University of Montana was founded in 1898 and every year in the spring, graduates in caps and gowns have stepped up receive their diplomas to the cheers and tears of family and friends, until 2020.

The COVID 19 pandemic has claimed another victim.

UM Communications Director Paula Short broke the news on Friday morning.

“Today, the university did make the announcement in conjunction with all the other units of the Montana University System, that we will not be having a tradition spring commencement,” said Short. “The challenges presented by coronavirus and social distancing requirements make that untenable for this spring. We had deferred that decision for as long as we could in hopes that we would have some encouraging news, but it has become clear that that was not going to happen. We informed our campus community and our estimated 2,200 graduates that they would not be able to walk this spring.”

Short said UM is looking at different ways to help celebrate commencement.

“We sent a survey out to those who have applied for graduation trying to gauge their enthusiasm for some possibilities, including coming back in the fall for an event in September or October, or how we might be able to bring commencement to the graduates in case there are good sized groups in Seattle or Portland and that we might be able to bring graduation to them.”

Short remarked on the historic decision to cancel commencement.

“This news has been heartbreaking for our students and faculty,” she said. “I was looking in the archives and I cannot find another time in the university’s history going back to 1898 when we did not have a spring commencement. Everybody understands it in light of the coronavirus, but we will do everything that we can to create some meaningful way to celebrate the success of our graduates.”