Commencement 2020

The broadcast of the 2020 Sam Fox School Recognition Ceremony is featured above. Recordings from our other online Commencement-week events will be posted to this page soon. You can also visit the Sam Fox School Facebook page to view videos from some of the events.

View the digital program for the May 14 Recognition Ceremony on Issuu>>

The Sam Fox School is eager to celebrate the resiliency and tremendous accomplishments of our graduating students through a series of online recognition events to be held May 11-14. We are honored to have Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects, winners of the 2020 Pritzker Prize, delivering the keynote address, and Susan Barrett, founder of Barrett Barrera Projects, delivering the alumni address. Both will speak during the All-School Recognition Ceremony on May 14. To access the full list of events, including streaming details, click here.

"In these extraordinary times of uncertainty, it’s important that we continue finding ways to come together as a school,” says Carmon Colangelo, Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts.

“I am incredibly excited about our speakers and cannot imagine a more inspiring lineup,” Colangelo continued. “Susan Barrett’s cutting-edge galleries and project spaces have had a major impact on the St. Louis art scene, while Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara have long considered teaching to be a vital component of their larger architectural practice, in addition to producing amazing beautiful projects.”

“All three truly speak to the sustaining values of the Sam Fox School.”

Read the full news release announcing our featured speakers>>

Sam Fox School Recognition Ceremony Keynote Speaker: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects. Photo: Ste Murray.

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara are co-founders of the Dublin-based firm Grafton Architects, which is known for delivering creative and sensitive design solutions to all its projects. They are the winners of the 2020 Pritzker Prize, which is known internationally as the architecture profession’s highest honor.

Farrell and McNamara graduated from University College Dublin (UCD) in 1974 and co-founded Grafton Architects in 1978. They are Fellows of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, International Honorary Fellows of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and elected members of Aosdána, the Irish arts association. Currently, they are professors at Switzerland’s Accademia di Archittettura, Mendrisio. The pair also has taught at UCD’s School of Architecture, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and Yale University.

In addition to the 2020 Pritzker Prize, Grafton Architects received the 2020 RIBA Royal Gold Medal and, in 2016, the inaugural RIBA International Prize, for its design of the Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología in Lima, Peru. Current projects include The Marshall Institute building for the London School of Economics and Political Science; the Dublin City Library at Parnell Square (with Shaffrey Architects); and the Electricity Supply Board headquarters in Dublin (with OMP architects).

Grafton Architects has participated in numerous exhibitions including the Sensing Spaces Exhibition in 2014 at the Royal Academy in London; a Pavilion for the 2014 Tercentenary of the City of Barcelona; and The Ogham Wall installation in 2015 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 2018, Farrell and McNamara served as curators for Freespace, the 16th International Venice Architecture Biennale—the title of which was drawn from their “Freespace Manifesto.”

Sam Fox School Recognition Ceremony Alumni Speaker: Susan Barrett of Barrett Barrera Projects

Susan Barrett believes that art is a verb. This belief has guided the companies she has started, the projects she has led, and her work with nonprofits. Her company, Barrett Barrera Projects, and its subsidiary spaces—projects+gallery, projects+exhibitions, and Guest House—produce exhibitions and projects that create a dialogue on contemporary issues through art and design.

For over 30 years, Barrett has fought for the arts to be a part of public transportation, city planning, and social change. She is a visionary with a background in painting, architecture, and fashion design, which has influenced the projects she has spearheaded and championed. Notable among these, Barrett conceptualized and developed the Saint Louis Chess Club. She also served as the founding executive director of the World Chess Hall of Fame, where she created the innovative exhibit A Queen Within, which is still touring internationally.

Barrett holds a Master of Architecture, a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Arts and French, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, all from Washington University. She is an active board member at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Laumeier Sculpture Park, Southside Day Nursery, Arts in Transit, Sheldon Art Galleries, Saint Louis Chess Club, Circus Flora, Mid-America Arts Alliance, and Saint Louis Fashion Fund. Among her honors, Barrett received a 2019 Saint Louis Visionary Award for women in the arts and the Visitation Academy St. Jane de Chantal Distinguished Alumna Award; she was also named a “Tastemaker” by St. Louis Magazine’s “Power List.”

Sam Fox School Online Recognition Events

Below is the list of online Sam Fox School Commencement events, including streaming information where applicable. All graduates and their families should have received separate email communications that included specific invitations to all events listed below, including those that are not being livestreamed; if you did not receive those communications, please contact All events will be recorded and made available for viewing on this page of our website by the week of May 18.

Monday, May 11: Sam Fox School Undergraduate Student Celebration

Undergraduate Student Speakers:
Emily Bielski, BFA in Communication Design
Claire Wiley, BS in Architecture

Faculty Speakers:
Penina Acayo Laker, Assistant Professor of Communication Design
Igor Marjanović, JoAnne Stolaroff Cotsen Professor and chair of undergraduate architecture

Tuesday, May 12: Sam Fox School Graduate Student Celebration

Graduate Student Speakers:
Sarah Knight, MFA in Visual Art
Rachel Madryga, Master of Architecture/Master of Urban Design

Faculty Speakers:
Jack Risley, Professor of Art
Mónica Rivera, Professor of Practice and Chair of Graduate Architecture

Wednesday, May 13: Award Ceremony for the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design

Wednesday, May 13: Award Ceremony for the College of Art and Graduate School of Art

Thursday, May 14: Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts Recognition Ceremony

Featured Speakers:
Yvonne Farrell & Shelley McNamara, Co-Founders, Grafton Architects (Keynote Address)
Susan Barrett (BFA89/BA89/MArch94), President & Founder, Barrett Barrera Projects (Alumni Address)

Please note: Washington University in St. Louis has canceled the on-campus All-University Commencement ceremony on May 15, 2020, due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. We know that this decision is very disappointing for our graduates and their families. Our students work incredibly hard to reach this milestone and deserve to be celebrated. However, the health and well-being of the Washington University community is our highest priority. On May 13, 2020, Chancellor Andrew D. Martin announced that the University plans to welcome the graduating Class of 2020 back to campus for an in-person Commencement ceremony on May 30, 2021; details can be found in this story.

Dream Forward: Alumni Messages to the Class of 2020

Knowing what an irrevocable impact the COVID-19 has had on the Class of 2020's final semester at WashU, the Sam Fox School Advancement team wanted to do something special to acknowledge their creativity, courage, and innovation. They've launched a new website,, that features messages, stories, and images of inspiration and encouragement from over 140 alumni. "You may have heard a view expressed many times since your early days here that, as a graduate of the Sam Fox School, you are a member of a national network and global community of creative alumni in architecture, art, and design," said Carmon Colangelo, the Ralph J. Nagel Dean. "When our alumni heard that the Class of 2020 would not have the same end-of-year experiences that have been part of our WashU community for decades, they responded in force to share their personal stories and words of encouragement."

Special Messages from Faculty & Staff

Check out this special compilation of video messages from Sam Fox School faculty and staff celebrating our 2020 graduates.

Thank You, #WashU20 Spotlights: Natia Kapanadze & Eve Wallack

To honor the Class of 2020, The Record published a series of "postcards of appreciation," acknowledging just a few of the outstanding graduating students who have distinguished themselves through a commitment to academic excellence, to the St. Louis community, or to their fellow students. These featured students include Natia Kapanadze (MLA) and Eve Wallack (BFA in Communication Design). View the full series in The Record.