By Cady Inabinett
On April 13, the university announced that spring commencement this year would include two ceremonies—one for spring 2021 graduates and one for Class of 2020 graduates. This comes after a year without any commencement ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021 will take place on Flowerhill lawn May 8 at 9 a.m.
Each graduate will be allowed five guests who must have reserved tickets in order to enter the event. Seating for guests on the lawn will be arranged in groups of five, with social distancing between each group. Masks are required to be worn at all times by both graduates and guests.
The ceremony for Class of 2020 graduates will occur later that day at 5 p.m also on Flowerhill lawn. This ceremony will follow the same guidelines as the ceremony for the Class of 2021 in terms of guests and social distancing and safety guidelines. Graduates from the spring, summer, and fall Classes of 2020 will be able to participate in this ceremony, as long as they have filled out the registration form prior to April 19.
University President Dr. John Stewart said that the university decided to host a commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020, “because of growing interest from those alumni returning for a ceremony.”
He also noted that interest from the Class of 2020 has been greater than expected, saying that, “At first we thought we would be able to manage having them included with this year’s seniors but there was more interest in returning than we knew—which is great!”
Stewart also seemed optimistic about the commencement ceremonies proceeding safely.
He credits Physical Plant director Coty Jones and facility and events scheduling director Marion Brown in planning for logistics of the ceremonies, saying, “Marion Brown and Coty Jones worked very hard to figure out all the square footage requirements that state and federal distancing protocols outline. They set that information to the available space on the Flowerhill lawn and came up with an excellent plan that we feel is at once safe and meaningful for our graduates.”