We are pleased to announce our initial plans for The Cooper Union’s 161st Commencement on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. These plans take the newly released New York State guidance and requirements for colleges and universities into account.

This Commencement ceremony will honor graduates of both the 2020 and 2021 graduating classes!

Cooper Union’s Commencement will provide both an in-person and a virtual experience for our graduates and their guests. We know that it is important for those who are or will be in New York City to have an opportunity to participate in person. Alumni from the class of 2020 are also invited to join us for the in-person festivities. It is equally important for all of our graduates, regardless of location on Commencement Day to be celebrated! To that end, the events on campus will be live-streamed and a compiled and edited Commencement video will be released in mid-June.

In-person Commencement activities will be held throughout the day on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. In order for us to make this happen, we must hear from you, soon. Each graduate must RSVP (Cooper Teams account required) no later than 5:00 PM ET, Friday, May 7. We need all graduates to RSVP, so we know attendance for both the in-person and virtual events. In order to participate in the in-person Commencement, you must let us know by this date. 

In-Person Event Details

On May 26, graduates will be invited to walk across the Great Hall stage to receive their diplomas, followed by a celebration at the Bowery Hotel. These in-person activities will be staggered by School and/or by Department based upon your specific academic program. There is no formal in-person program except the walking across the stage.  All speakers and formal remarks will all be recorded and delivered virtually.

The exact timing of the day will be determined once the RSVPs are tallied, and we will publish that schedule as soon as possible prior to the actual day of Commencement. 

Each graduate will be allowed up to two guests for the in-person activities. You MUST complete the Guest Information Form as soon as possible. Unlike past years, guest tickets are not transferrable to other graduates. We will be requiring all graduates and their guests be tested for COVID-19 to participate. Anyone with a positive rapid test result will be prohibited to participate in the on-campus activities. Details about COVID-19 testing will be provided as we get closer to the date of Commencement. 

Once tested, graduates and their guests will line up around the Foundation Building. President Sparks will announce the conferral of degrees and then small groups will enter the Great Hall and graduates will walk across the stage as their names are announced to receive their degree folder. Guests are welcome to take photographs as they watch their graduates walk across the stage. We will also have a professional photographer on-site.  The audience will be limited to faculty and staff from the student's academic program. Students and their guests may not remain in the Great Hall.

After receiving their degree folder in the Great Hall, grads and their guests will proceed to the Bowery Hotel for a celebration with their classmates, deans, and attending faculty. Upon arrival to the Bowery Hotel, graduates will receive their official Cooper Union diploma.

The Bowery Hotel will be open for a one-hour window for each group with appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages. Reception attendees will need to abide by all the health and safety guidelines in place at the facility. 

There will be no rehearsal prior to Commencement.

Again, to participate in this event, you must RSVP by 5PM, Friday, May 7.

Virtual Commencement Details

For graduates who are not able to attend the in-person, we will offer a number of virtual Commencement options. On Commencement Day (May 26), all on-campus activities will be livestreamed and off-site graduates are encouraged to sign into a virtual space to join in the events of the day. Those joining remotely will be featured on the Great Hall screens and will become part of the overall virtual Commencement video.

Roughly a week after Commencement Day, we will release a full virtual Commencement program video. This program will include remarks from President Sparks, Board of Trustees Chair Malcolm King, and our commencement speaker, artist and alumna Wangechi Mutu A’96. The virtual program will include photos from Commencement Day as well as photos submitted by graduates who are unable to attend the in-person Commencement activities. Instructions for submitting photos will be forthcoming.

If you cannot attend in-person, your diploma will be mailed to the address currently in your student portal (please update this address if it is incorrect!).

Ordering Caps and Gowns

We also want to remind you that all graduates are invited to order a cap, gown, and tassel (at no cost to the graduate) that you will keep. Place your academic attire order here

Caps, gowns, and tassels will be shipped directly to graduates, so it is important to place your order no later than April 30th to ensure you receive them in time for Commencement. Students participating in live activities should plan to wear their cap and gown that day. For students attending virtually, you are encouraged to send in pictures of you wearing your cap and gown.

The Office of Student Affairs is pleased to announce that this year, instead of issuing rental caps and gowns to graduating students, we will be individually shipping everyone “keeper” caps & gowns. This is exactly what it sounds like – you get to keep your regalia (cap, gown, and tassel) instead of returning it to us! All we need you to do is go online and order it as soon as possible.

Commencement caps and gowns may be ordered, free of charge, and delivered for both the class of 2020 and 2021.

To ensure delivery of your regalia directly to you by May 26th, the company processing our orders, Herff-Jones, will be accepting orders until 5PM, Friday, May 7.

To order your cap and gown go to and follow the below steps. For steps that include images see this PDF.

  1. Select your graduation year
  2. Select Bachelor or Masters
  3. Click "Continue"
  4. Near the top, next a blue "Home" button, click "Cap & Gown"
  5. Fill out the form for name, area of study, height & weight
  6. Click "Add to Cart"
  7. Confirm your total is $0.00
  8. Click "Proceed to Checkout"
  9. Complete "Ordered By" information on the first screen, then "Shipping Information" on the next screen and confirm that your shipping cost is $0.00. Please be sure to use a reliable shipping address where you can receive your package in time for May 26, 2021. International orders should allow extra time.
  10. Follow the rest of the prompts to complete your order. You will have a chance to review everything in full before placing your order. If you encounter any problems during the order and checkout process, please contact Herff Jones customer service at 800-837-4235. 


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.