When the COVID-19 panic upended the world in 2020, it introduced chaos as students faced an abrupt end to their time on campus and retreated to virtual learning.
It was an especially tough blow for the Class of 2020 who didn’t get to celebrate the end of their final year as Cardinals with a traditional Commencement ceremony or even get a chance to bid farewell to their favorite campus spots.
A new space near the center of Belknap Campus now stands in their honor; the fulfillment of a promise made by the university to the Class of 2020. It’s an oasis from the regular hustle and bustle, where all students can reflect and relax and where the Class of 2020 can return to celebrate their place in UofL’s history.
The university dedicated the 2020 Pavilion on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The space was designed “in honor of the Class of 2020 whose dynamic blend of passion, innovation and resiliency sustained them on their academic journey and through their final days as students, which were irrevocably altered by the COVID-19 pandemic and its historic impact on our world.”
Plans for a commemorative space were announced in May 2020 to mark sacrifices made by students after the pandemic forced the university to deliver all classes virtually during part of spring 2020 and to offer commencement as a virtual rather than in-person experience that year.
Jasper Noble ’20 served as 2019-20 Student Government Association president and well remembers the jarring effect the pandemic had on his senior year.
“The Class of 2020 got hit in a very strange way with [the pandemic]. It came out of nowhere and completely changed how we were going to school and how were living our lives. We were the first graduating class to deal with this new problem,” he said.
The pandemic, while a struggle, did also provide a chance for UofL to truly show it is a Community of Care and to demonstrate its resiliency.
“I think there were a lot of lessons we learned,” Noble said. “How to be flexible, how to be a little more empathetic to those around us. In my experience, people were very patient and very caring right there at the end of the semester. It was a time when we were all very far apart, but we all came together. I think it’s great that there’s a place we can come back to and celebrate the time we had at UofL and, I bet for a lot of people, get that closure that they’re looking for and maybe never got.”
The original idea to honor the Class of 2020 began with a renaming of the grassy area bordered by the Belknap Academic Building, Lutz Hall, Shumaker Research Building and Schneider Hall to the “2020 Quad,” but with thanks to University Planning, Design and Construction (UPDC), planners began to think bigger.
“We talked about creating a structure with seating so students could use the space to socialize and be on campus – exactly what students in 2020 could not do at the time,” UPDC assistant director Mike Materna said. “We all believed in the vision of making sure students felt heard and supported after a time when that voice was not able to be present.”
Along the way primary donor Messer Construction Co., and supporters Whittenberg Construction Co. and ID+A Inc., along with the Office of the President, provided funding to make the pavilion come to life. With K. Norman Berry and Associates as the architect and Miranda Construction as the contractor, construction began in earnest during the summer of 2022 and was completed at the start of the fall semester.
Embracing the idea of a comfortable gathering space was critical in the design process, Carrie Whitmore, project manager with UPDC, said. “So we specifically picked furniture that would encourage people to stick around – like lounge chairs and communal tables.” Along with the furniture, the pavilion also includes a living wall “so the legacy can live on,” Whitmore added.
The backside of the living wall features a Cardinal logo that can be used as a spot to take a UofL-inspired photo, designed in part to give the Class of 2020 an opportunity to take a picture that could replace the traditional shot they would have taken as they walked across the stage at graduation. And of course, there is a plaque with the dedication to the Class of 2020. Since its completion, students and other members of the campus community can be found lounging in the chairs, studying or grabbing a quick bite.
Noble, who is currently in his second year of law school at Georgetown University, was able to return to UofL last year when his sister was a freshman. He visited as construction was beginning on the recently completed Belknap Village South residence hall and his sister has been keeping him up to date with all the latest campus improvements. As an alum, Noble is proud to see where UofL is going and is honored that through the pavilion, the Class of 2020 is able to share what makes UofL so special with the classes that followed them.
“I think one of the points of being a part of a community like UofL is that you put all this work in, you donate so much of your time to the community because you’re grateful that other people have come before you and done that,” he said. “I’m very excited there’s another place for people to relax and really soak in being in this place.”