16:10 PM

Class of 2020 Shines in Spotlight at Virtual Celebration

It was a night when many of Houston stars came out for a special occasion the celebration of the University of Houston-Downtown’s Class of 2020.

The accomplishments of more than 1,300 Gator Graduates were honored during the University’s first-ever Virtual Graduation Celebration on June 11, which was hosted by Isiah Carey of FOX26 and FOXSoul. The event was live streamed on UHD’s Facebook page. The celebration may also be viewed here. A separate event specifically for this year's spring graduates is being scheduled for December.

During the event, graduates received well-wishes from special guests, including city leaders, professional athletes and notable UHD alumni.

At the onset of the festivities, Erika Harrison, UHD’s Diversity Officer, offered words to honor Houstonian George Floyd, who had been laid to rest earlier in the week after being killed in an act of violence.

“We can’t deny that our future generations and our community faces many challenges,” Harrison said. “This week, we laid one of our own, George Floyd, to rest and we continue to struggle with the Coronavirus. Tonight’s event celebrates those future leaders who will help elevate our community and pave the way for future generations.”

University of Houston System Chancellor, Dr. Renu Khator shared some words of encouragement with the graduates the beginning of the broadcast, along with UHD President, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz.

“Many of you will go from here and move into positions of great influence,” Muñoz said. “Never forget your time at UHD. UHD will forever be a part of you and you will forever be a part of UHD.”

Chancellor Khator added, “You have so much to offer our city, our state and this country,” she said. “We need your skills and your leadership.”

A special video tribute to the graduates, produced by the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, included well wishes from the followed featured guests:

  • Jeff Bagwell – Hall of Fame Houston Astros First Baseman
  • Lance McCullers Jr. – Houston Astros Pitcher
  • Carl Lewis – University of Houston Track Star & Olympic Gold Medalist
  • Justin Reid – Houston Texans Safety
  • Whitney Mercilus – Houston Texans Defensive End
  • Boxing Legend George Foreman
  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
  • Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo

“Your hard work has not gone unnoticed,” Reid told the graduates. “This is just the beginning of a beautiful journey.”

Additional messages were delivered by the following local dignitaries:

  • Rapper Bun B
  • UHD SGA President Shay Tatum
  • Business leader & UHD benefactor Marilyn Davies (namesake of UHD Marilyn Davies College of Business)
  • Musician &UHD Alumna Annika Chambers, who also performed during the event.
  • State Representative & UHD Alumna Mary Ann Perez
  • Harris County Sheriff & UHD Alumnus Ed Gonzalez

“You have certainly been faced with your share of challenges,” Davies said. “You have faced those challenges head-on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers will be looking for people who have embraced those challenges with that kind of ambition and who are kind. The world needs people like you. Make sure you greet them with a firm handshake and a smile.”

The event also featured a toast to the Class of 2020 led by Dr. Eric Carl Link, Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs & Provost​.

Additional highlights included a rendition of UHD’s Alma Mater performed by accomplished vocalist and UHD Police Department dispatcher Stephen Vega with music provided by UHD’s mariachi band Mariachi Los Caimanes.

Graduates also receive prizes, courtesy of Herff Jones, and their names were displayed near the conclusion of the event. The lucky winners were:

Virtual Toast Wine Glasses

  • Irma Macias
  • Anthony Semien

Diploma Frames

  • Milani Abdurahman
  • Syneetra A. Williams
  • Leticia Pantigoso
  • Melissa Trejo
  • Miriam Pacheco

Class Rings

  • Desiree Ruiz
  • William Stegall

“I’d like to express my utmost admiration for all of the graduates,” said Carey as the event drew to a close. “I am honored to have had an opportunity to celebrate your graduation with you and congratulate you on your accomplishments.”

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.