Pence accepted an invitation instead.
Pence's remarks began as students walked out, but he did not address the elephant leaving the room - instead addressing religious liberty, President Donald Trump's Sunday morning speech in Saudi Arabia and encouraging leadership in broad strokes terms.
Graduate student Luis Miranda claimed he plans to walk out because of the administration's actions against undocumented immigrants.
Pence encouraged graduates to take that independent spirit and lead with it.
When Pence went to speak, the protestors left the stadium. "We also will walk out in dignity and solidarity with all marginalized people affected by Pence's politics, both on this campus and throughout our nation".
Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday delivered a call for leadership to Notre Dame's newest graduates, urging them "to be men and women of integrity and values" and to carry the ideals they learned at the university into "your lives and your careers".
Protests are expected on the streets next to campus.
Pence and his wife Karen were greeted by the President and CEO of Winner Aviation, the Republican Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meachum, Vietnam War Veteran Leo Connolly and two students from the Valley.
WGN-TV reported that Notre Dame President Reverend John I. Jenkins called it "fitting" that on the school's 175th anniversary of its founding, that a "native son" will be recognized. ND is a Catholic school. and Pence is famously Christian.
'We're not concerned, ' the university's spokesman said. "Perhaps Mr. Pence can still break away from the chaos President Trump has cultivated".
Paul Browne, vice president for public affairs and communications, said in a statement that they'd only intervene "if the ceremony was seriously disrupted or anyone's safety was put at risk".
The vice president also addressed President Trump's overseas trip, casting it as an effort to reestablish weakened US alliances and reassert American might abroad.
"I came out because I wanted to be involved with other activists looking to resist the Trump agenda", said Jorden Giger, of South Bend.
"There were a couple of us who came together after realizing that Mike Pence had been invited and understanding how frustrating that felt to the LGBT members of Notre Dame's community", Ricketts said April 20 in a previous interview with The Observer. You know since the first day of our administration and in the great tradition of this college our President has been freeing the American economy by rolling back the heavy hand of big government.
"Remember now, people follow people they respect", he said.