DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The University of Dayton Class of 2020 finally got the chance to celebrate their graduation with a commencement ceremony.

Two years ago, the Class of 2020 was sent home due to the pandemic shutdown and attended commencement virtually. Now that COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, they could finally celebrate in-person and on-campus.

“Coming here I was like ‘wow Marycrest, I used to live there,’ just driving up the old roads and getting flooded with a bunch of memories because I haven’t been back in such a long time,” 2020 alumna Gabriella Rice said.

Reflecting back on the spring of 2020, Rice said there was a mix of emotions when in-person commencement was canceled.

“I was angry at first because you’re like really, that’s not fair, but then you’re also like it’s understandable because I guess we all thought we were going to die, there were so many uncertainties,” Rice said.

The university promised the class they’d have an in-person graduation ceremony as soon as COVID-19 restrictions lifted. It wasn’t until this year that the campus no longer had to worry about capacity limitations, masking and social distancing.

The celebration is part of a weekend of events which took place Friday through Saturday afternoon. The weekend was organized by UD’s Provost Office and the UD Alumni Association, with the help of 25 members of the class of 2020.

“They really wanted to be here and to be connected with each other, be able to spend time personally, actually have a party, food, those kinds of things, and moving it out another year became a necessity if you wanted to achieve that,” Vice President of University Advancement Jennifer Howe said.

This weekend was a chance for the Class of 2020 to reconnect with the friends and faculty they had to leave without goodbyes.

“That was a big reason, making sure I would have friends that are also coming back,” 2020 alumnus Adam West said. “It’s been awesome getting to see everyone again.”

West said, two years later, life has changed a lot since they were students.

“I wanted to come back, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back just because of work and stuff like that,” West said. “You know, it’s been two years and life gets busy in two years as soon as you’re not in school.”

UD said 421 Class of 2020 graduates and 805 family members were expected to attend Saturday’s ceremony.