Another UCF Homecoming is in the books and the 50th anniversary of the tradition didn’t disappoint. From new events like UCF Downtown‘s Bubble Splash to annual favorites, here’s a look back at some of the highlights of Homecoming week.

Two women sit in colorful pool floats on grass on sunny day with a blue inflatable rink behind them filled with foam
UCF Downtown hosted a Bubble Splash Nov. 3 as an innovative complement to Spirit Splash on the main campus. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
Young woman laughs as she pushes away foam from her face
Bubble Splash was organized for the first time this year and it’s likely to be held again in the future. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
A group of college students laugh while walking through foam
Both UCF and Valencia students were invited to participate at Bubble Splash. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

Concert Knight at Addition Financial Arena featured multi-platinum recording artist Tinashe, known for “2 On” (ft Schoolboy Q) and “All Hands on Deck” and Florida rapper Denzel Curry.

black and white photo of performer on stage in haze with crowd in front of him
Denzel Curry is best known for his hit songs “Ultimate” and “Clout Cobain.” (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

UCF Alumni recognized its Shining Knights award recipients in a special ceremony. These Knights were celebrated for their commitment to the university in the categories of Distinguished Alumni, Honorary Alumni, Young Alumni, Distinguished Student and the Champion’s Award.

Group of the Shining Knights Award winners holding their plaques of recognition
(Photo courtesy of UCF Alumni)

2020 Commencement

The long-awaited in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 kicked off Homecoming weekend, and for many graduates, this moment was as much about their families as it was the milestone.

A PhD graduate and his family hold two umbrellas and smile
Rain didn’t deter UCF graduates from taking photographs with their families at Knights Plaza after the ceremony.  (Photo by Rhiana Raymundo ’19)
Black woman stands proudly in cap and gown during commencement ceremony
Roughly 1,700 graduates returned to participate in the 2020 Commencement Ceremony. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

Edward Garcia ’20, a finance graduate, is the youngest of three and the first among his siblings to earn his college degree. He landed a full-time job as an asset management analyst in Boca Raton and was motivated to return for the ceremony for his mother.

“Seeing my mom’s face as I was walking across the stage was worth it,” Garcia says. “I’m pretty excited and happy. It’s a pretty big accomplishment, hopefully one of many. I do plan to pursue higher education so when the time comes that is something I will go after.”

Jillian Johnson ’13 ’20MA, who earned her master’s degree in educational technology and instructional design seven years after earning her bachelor’s in elementary education, credited her husband and their three children, ages 10, 6 and 8 months, as her reason for participating.

“They missed me at a lot of dinners and late nights and bed times,” she says. “It was important that they saw what it was for.”

Darin Edwards speaks at podium with UCF seal
Darin Edwards ’97 ’10MS ’11PhD gave a motivational speech about not being afraid of taking risks. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

Darin Edwards ’97 ’10MS ’11PhD, who led the development of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine as the company’s director of immunology, helped kick off the weekend by inspiring UCF’s 2020 graduates as the keynote speaker.

“My message is don’t be afraid to take your own path in life or your career or make a change if you aren’t satisfied on the path you’re on. Don’t be afraid to approach work or life differently than friends or colleagues. Do not be afraid to propose novel solutions to problems. Don’t be afraid to change what you are doing to pursue a passion or to chase a dream. And please don’t be afraid to put your family and your friends first and rely upon them when times are difficult. And always be true to yourself. And last and most important, try to have fun. … My time here was key to my success. UCF provided me with the opportunity to explore broadly, enabling me to become the well-rounded person and scientist that I am today, and frankly it was a lot of fun. I mentioned the lifelong friends I made here. And the memories I made are ones that I cherish. My hope is that some of your friends and your memories are as strong.”

President Alexander Cartwright hands Darin Edwards honorary degree on stage while both wear commencement regalia
Darin Edwards accepts his honorary degree in public service from UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright during the 2020 Commencement Ceremony held Nov. 5. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

President Alexander N. Cartwright awarded the three-time alum with an honorary doctoral degree in public service, praising his “extraordinary contributions to humanity, including incredible endeavors in global public health that have saved lives, reduced human suffering and safeguarded the health of countless millions of fellow humans around the world.”

Spirit Splash

This year’s Spirit Splash was a little wetter than usual with steady rain that persisted from morning until night Friday. The weather didn’t damper the enthusiasm of the many who attended.

Closeup of students, wet from rain, excited for Spirit Splash
Students enjoy the pep rally of Spirit Splash before rushing into the Reflecting Pond. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
Students run into the Reflecting Pond as water sprays
Spirit Splash was modified for 2020 due to the pandemic, so this year’s rush into the pond was extra memorable. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

Terry Mohajir, vice president and director of athletics, showed up decked out in rubber duck board shorts, a snorkel and goggles, eager for his first run into the Reflecting Pond.

Terry Mohajir prepares to run into Reflecting Pond for Spirit Splash
Terry Mohajir was excited to run alongside the students at Spirit Splash. (Video courtesy of UCF Knights Twitter)
Knightro in board shorts energizes crowd after rushing the Reflecting Pond at Spirit Splash
Knightro amps up the crowd, who was eager for rubber ducks. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

Daniela Jahncke ’20, an industrial engineering alum, went straight from the commencement ceremony to Spirit Splash in her cap and gown determined to get a duck.

“I felt like I never got the closure of finishing UCF and my time here. I was part of the Class of May 2020, so March 2020 we left for Spring Break and never got to come back. I needed the closure, and it was an exciting opportunity to walk the stage and have that celebration. Even though the weather wasn’t ideal, it’s nice to celebrate with family and the couple friends that came back — and to have one final Spirit Splash.”

President Alexander N. Cartwright prepares to launch a rubber duck
UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright prepares to throw one of the coveted rubber ducks into the crowd. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
Closeup of man holding three rubber ducks from 2021 Spirit Splash
This year’s duck design is one of a kind. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

The National Pan-Hellenic Council Stroll Show closed out festivities on Friday night.

Male students on stage in formation for dance show
Student organizations from the National Pan-Hellenic Council engaged in some friendly competition to declare one group as the overall 2021-22 stroll show winner. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
Female students choreographed dance on stage
Multiple groups performed at Addition Financial Arena. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

Game Day

The skies cleared Saturday for cooler temperatures and a more traditional fall football game day. The Knights delivered a win over Tulane, 14-10, to remain perfect at home this season (5-0).

Two female students play cornhole on sunny day near tailgate tents
Tailgating on Memory Mall (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
Knugget II, who was introduced in October, participates in the March to Victory. The original Knugget, who debuted September 29, 2018, retired to Painted Oaks Academy, a premier equestrian facility and historic ranch located near UCF. (Photo by Brooke Morris, UCF Athletics)
UCF wide receiver Ryan O'Keefe flexes on the field
UCF wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe scored one of the Knights’ two touchdowns in the game. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
Two alumni Marching Knights dance with horn section playing behind them on the field
An annual tradition, the UCF Marching Knights welcomed alumni back for their on-field halftime performance. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
Darin Edwards, his wife and two children pose with Shaquem Griffin at football stadium
Darin Edwards ’97 ’10MS ’11PhD and his family got to connect with fellow alum Shaquem Griffin ’16, who helped lead the Knights to their perfect season in 2017. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
Knightro stands with this year's Homecoming queen and king
Marketing majors Trinity McCall-Peaks and Nehemie Francois were named Homecoming Royalty at halftime. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
Students in stands at football game cheer
UCF’s student section — The Knightmare — is a crucial component of the Bounce House atmosphere. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)