The Class of 2020 returns, ready to celebrate and heal

Jordan Beck was sitting in a rooftop bar overlooking St. Petersburg, Florida on March 13, 2020, when he learned Denison was suspending in-person classes.

News of the virus’s rapid spread had caused many students to reconsider their spring break plans, but Beck and six of his closest friends at Denison — all class of 2020 — decided to make the trip.

At the top of the Zamora Hotel, the group of travelers was flooded with emotion – a mixture of sadness, anger and confusion. Just a day after arriving at Beck’s family condo, his friends began leaving, scattering across the country to prepare for COVID-19 lockdowns.

Although the visit was brief, its significance and intensity grew in the collective memory.

“Looking back, I feel really lucky to have been with my friends at that time,” said Beck, a scientist working in Washington, DC. “How many old people got to spend one last night together?”

The opportunity to catch up with old classmates is one of the driving forces behind the upcoming weekend’s event. Beck’s six friends who said their tearful goodbyes in St. Petersburg – Katie Aucamp, Kathryn Belfance, Grace Horn, Katherine Kunze, Caroline Lewis and Brooke Shuler – have pledged to return.

“People are the reason I keep coming back,” said Horn, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Georgia. “I’m delighted to see my friends again and, of course, my mother wants to be there to share this moment. She loves the badges.

Natalie Zaravella thinks the weekend will be cathartic for many.

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