Josh Duhamel, Heidi Heitkamp, Minnesota Twins president send well wishes to UND graduates

Communications major Brady Siebels reacts to getting his degree on Friday, Aug. 2, at UND Commencement. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

This weekend there will be no walks across the stage, no moving of the tassel, no confetti or other pomp and circumstance that comes with college graduation.

Instead, there will be small celebrations at home with UND graduates and families huddled around a laptop or on their phones as they wait for their name and picture to scroll across a screen.

The COVID-19 pandemic has moved graduation ceremonies across the country to online with hopes of meeting again at ceremonies in the future to celebrate their accomplishments.

The graduates have been receiving well wishes from former UND students and others well known in the North Dakota community, including actor, Minot-native and recent honorary degree recipient Josh Duhamel, former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp who also received an honorary degree from UND last year, Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter and many more.

“I can’t imagine that you thought your ceremony would look like this,” Duhamel said in his message. “But it’s going to get better from here. Congratulations on all your hard work. Here’s to you!”


“We wanted our graduates to feel honored,” Fred Wittmann, director of ceremonies and university events, said.

UND will be honoring more than 1,000 graduates virtually at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 16, with three ceremonies that will be available to watch online on UND's website. The ceremonies include general commencement for bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees; School of Medicine and Health Sciences commencement; and law school commencement.

Each ceremony will include video remarks from interim President Joshua Wynne and other administrators, as well as a slide of each student with their name, degree, major, a recording of their name and a submitted photo. Viewers and students can search by name as well as watch each ceremony.

Eligible candidates for graduation number 2,063. UND will award degrees to 1,351 undergraduates, 580 masters and doctoral students, 74 medical doctors and 55 law students.

“The pandemic has changed your life as a student and as a member of the University of North Dakota community,” said Wynne. “I really wish you could be here to celebrate with your friends. I wish you could be here to walk across the stage as your family and friends cheer. You are the University of North Dakota. Your spirit, your passion, your remarkable resilience during these challenging times. You are UND.”


Hunter Pinke, a UND student and member of the football team who was injured in a skiing accident in December, also shared his well wishes.

“The diploma is not the dream. The process is the dream, and, in that process, all the hard work, dedication and perseverance are going to be traits that take you through the rest of your life. Congratulations and Go Hawks!” Pinke, a mechanical engineering major, said.

More videos will be coming soon, Wittmann said, noting those names will be a surprise.

Students will later receive a graduation “Hawk Pack” with a diploma, diploma folder, printed program, honor medallion if appropriate, and commencement mementos. Spring graduates are also invited to return to campus to participate in a future commencement ceremony.


Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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