AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Tens of thousands of fans packed McGuirk Alumni Stadium Friday to celebrate the UMass Amherst Class of 2023 in a re-imagined ceremony to include everyone receiving a degree.

The 153rd undergraduate class will join with masters and doctoral program students for one giant commencement ceremony at McGuirk Alumni Stadium, some 25,000 people were expected to attend.

World Cup Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Briana Scurry spoke to the 7,500 undergraduate and more than 2,000 graduate students. Scurry is known as one of the most talented soccer goalkeepers in the sport’s global history.

After a stellar career with the Minutewomen from 1990 to 1993 she made 173 international appearances for Team USA including on the team that won the first Olympic women’s soccer competition in 1996. In the 1999 World Cup Final she tended a 120-minute shutout against China making a title-sealing save when it went to a shootout at the Rose Bowl.

Throughout her career, Scurry was a champion of equality in sports and has a comeback story to tell. Her soccer career ended in 2010 when she suffered a traumatic brain injury. Since then she has taken up fierce advocacy for sports safety.

Spirits were high in Amherst with a beautiful blue sky and full sun rising for graduation day.

It was the end of their freshman year when Covid-19 uprooted life as we know it. These students were sent home for an extended Spring Break some returned the next fall, and others were away from campus for the entire next academic year. Today they reflected on their education and all they have been through.

It was also Chancellor Kumble Subawammy’s final commencement as the university’s leader, he was emotional in his final address praising the ingenuity and drive of the young adults he made a life mentoring.