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Eastern to host 4 Commencement Exercises for Classes of 2021 and 2020

Published on April 22, 2021

Eastern to host 4 Commencement Exercises for Classes of 2021 and 2020

University to award 3 honorary degrees

An image from a previous commencement ceremony held at the XL Center.

Eastern Connecticut State University’s 131st Annual Commencement Exercises will feature four on-ground graduation ceremonies on May 15 and May 16 to honor the classes of 2021 and 2020. With pandemic safety protocols in mind, commencement exercises for the Class of 2021 will have two separate events on Saturday, May 15 — one in the morning starting at 9 a.m. and one in the afternoon starting at 4 p.m. — with graduates split into two groups to manage social distancing and audience density. A ceremony for graduate students will take place at 1 p.m.

On Sunday, May 16, members of the Class of 2020 will gather for an in-person ceremony at 10 a.m. to make up for the traditional commencement they missed out on last spring due to the pandemic. All four ceremonies will take place on the Windham Technical High School athletic field adjacent to Eastern’s campus, rain or shine.

Eastern will also present three honorary degrees on May 15 — one at each ceremony — to Jeffrey Flaks, chief executive officer and president of Hartford Healthcare; Maryam Elahi, president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut; and Mark Boxer, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the University of Hartford.

Honorary degree recipients
This year's honorary degree recipients include Jeffrey Flaks, Maryam Elahi and Mark Boxer.

As an innovator and leader in the healthcare field, Flaks oversees a $4.3 billion enterprise serving more than 1.7 million patients and customers. Before joining Hartford HealthCare in 2004, he held leadership roles in health systems in New York and Detroit. In addition to serving on the American Hospital Association’s Health System’s Council, Flaks serves as co-chair of the Connecticut Governor’s COVID-19 Health System Response Team and was appointed to the Governor’s Workforce Council.

Prior to joining the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut in 2013, Elahi served in several leadership positions in the international human rights community. She was the founding director of the Human Rights Program at Trinity College in Hartford, the first undergraduate human rights program in the United States. Elahi served as the advocacy director on the Middle East, North Africa and Europe for Amnesty International in Washington, D.C., from 1990 to 1997. Over the years she has led human rights missions in dozens of countries around the world.

Prior to joining the University of Hartford last year, Boxer served as Cigna's global chief information officer from 2011 to 2020. During this tenure, Boxer was responsible for driving Cigna’s worldwide technology strategy and overseeing the health company's technology operations, digital capabilities, analytics and ventures.

To ensure the safety of graduates and guests, all commencement weekend events will follow strict social distancing protocols and other guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Connecticut State Department of Public Health. Accordingly, graduates will be limited to two guests each, and tickets will be required. To manage the ticketing process, secure codes and online access has been provided to each graduate.

All four commencement sessions will be recorded and available on Eastern’s YouTube channel for viewing by family members and friends unable to attend. For more information, visit the commencement website at

Written by Michael Rouleau