UW News

April 22, 2022

Former UW Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Robert Stacey to deliver address for classes of 2020 and 2021 on June 12

UW News

man in coat and tie

Former UW Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Robert Stacey will address the classes of 2020 and 2021 in a June 12 ceremony.Corrine Thrash/University of Washington

Former UW Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Robert Stacey will speak to the graduates of the classes of 2020 and 2021 when they return to Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium for an in-person celebration on Sunday, June 12.

Commencement ceremonies were held virtually in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the UW is hosting two in-person ceremonies: the first for the graduating Class of 2022 on June 11, and the second for graduates of the classes of 2020 and 2021 on June 12. Tony Award-winning actor and producer Ron Simons will speak at the ceremony on June 11.

Stacey is a veteran of the UW, serving more than three decades in teaching and leadership positions. A professor of history, he was dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, the university’s largest college, from 2013 until his retirement in 2021, during which time he helped overcome many of the challenges brought on by the pandemic, including the rapid adaptation to remote learning. He began his career teaching at Yale University before moving to the UW in 1988.

His pedagogy was celebrated with distinguished teaching awards at both Yale and the UW, and he’s held numerous positions in his UW career including chair of the History and Jewish Studies departments, divisional dean of arts and humanities and of social sciences. He has served on the Faculty Senate and headed the UW’s Advisory Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics. Currently, he’s teaching the UW men’s soccer team about Scottish history, politics and independence in advance of a summer tournament that will be played there.

“As a leader, scholar and teacher, Bob has contributed so much to our great public university, particularly during the most difficult years of the pandemic,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “So, it’s incredibly meaningful and fitting that he will address our graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 as they return to campus for the in-person celebration of their degrees that we have been anticipating for so long.”

Stacey, a specialist in medieval history, plans to talk about the world that these graduates inherited: one where the U.S. has been at war and students have grappled with inequality and indebtedness, all exacerbated by COVID.

“I’m going to try to leave them with a sense of how much we, as a country, need this group of students, their experiences, their energy, their commitment, their sense that there needs to be fundamental changes in this country and the larger world,” Stacey said. “They’re important, they matter. It’s been tough for these classes, but they’ve come through it. They’ve shown themselves and the world a lot of resilience, and they’re going to need that going forward.”


Each of UW’s three campuses plan to return to in-person commencement ceremonies. Check these websites for more details about ordering tickets and timing:

UW Seattle Class of 2022

UW Seattle classes of 2020/2021

UW Bothell

UW Tacoma

More than 4,000 graduates from the 2020 and 2021 years have expressed interest in returning to Seattle to mark their academic success, and officials expect tens of thousands of spectators.

Savanna Yee, who graduated with a double degree in computer science and informatics in 2020, said she plans to participate in the June 12 event.

“I didn’t go to a high school graduation, so I’m really looking forward to wearing the cap and gown and walking across a big stage for the first time in my life,” she said.

Yee now is pursuing a master’s in computer science at UW. She’s pleased that the university kept its word to host a special ceremony for the two classes that celebrated graduation online. While it will be great to reunite with classmates and wear the purple and gold, she’s most excited to include the people who matter most in her achievement.

“I’m also really looking forward to sharing in the festivities with my family, since they were wholly responsible for making this possible for me,” Yee said.

Stacey said that he’s humbled to cap his long career at the UW by addressing students like Yee, her family and the community.

“I came to the UW because I wanted to teach at a public research institution, where students, if they did well, could go on anywhere in the world. There aren’t many of those places. UW is one of the few and they’re very precious,” Stacey said. “It’s always been an honor for me to be part of the University of Washington. I want to send students away with some of that same feeling on their part too, that it really is a special place. There are not many places like it in the country, they’re precious and they need to be supported and, sometimes, defended.”