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Graduation to go virtual for UTSD Class of 2020

Lavender tassel with gold
The School of Dentistry's first online commencement ceremony for dental and dental hygiene graduates is set for 2 p.m. July 19. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

For the first time in the school’s 115-year history, UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry will host an online graduation convocation ceremony for its 100 dental and 37 dental hygiene graduates. The school’s 47 advanced education graduates were honored separately.

The program will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 19, streaming on YouTube and, where it will also be available for later viewing. The companion graduation brochure is available for download at

Originally set for May 18 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, UTSD’s 115th commencement ceremony was postponed in hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic would subside. Instead, the number of confirmed cases continued to rise, prompting administrators to rule out an in-person gathering and take the program online.

The virtual ceremony will follow the traditional format, with Dean John Valenza, DDS, and UTHealth President Giuseppe Colasurdo, MD, officiating. Associate Dean for Student and Academic Affairs Robert Spears, PhD, will announce each name as the graduate’s portrait appears on screen to the traditional tune “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Other speakers will include:

  • Former UTSD Associate Professor Ashley Clark, DDS, now of the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry;
  • Ryan Quock, DDS, who is both the top elected official of the American Dental Education Association and a Distinguished Teaching Professor at UTSD;
  • UTSD Alumni Association President David P. Gonzalez, DDS, leading The Dentist’s Pledge;
  • University of Texas - Houston Dental Hygienists’ Alumni Association President Lorie Jones, RDH, BSDH, leading the Dental Hygiene Oath.   
  • The program will conclude with a song and images that reflect the historic nature of the pandemic.

“We encourage everyone to tune in and watch it together — but safely,” Valenza said. “It’s not a traditional commencement, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be special, especially for our graduates.”


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