Saint Mary’s holds its first virtual Commencement
Over the past one and three-quarter centuries, there has never been a Saint Mary’s College Commencement like Commencement 2020.
In some ways, it looked the same, the robed presenters filing out of Le Mans Hall toward their chairs and the lectern, and Interim President Nancy Nekvasil approaching the microphone to address the Class of 2020’s 353 undergraduates and 47 graduate students. Except there were no students in the audience. There was no audience — at least, none on site.
Instead, hundreds of students and their families tuned in virtually from across the country via a web link. Yes, it was a difficult time to pull off a commencement in the midst of a global pandemic that had shut down schools and businesses everywhere. But Saint Mary’s College organizers did it.
The presenters remained a respectable distance away from each other during the ceremony. Photos of the Outstanding Senior, Lumen Christi, and Madeleva awardees were displayed on the live video, while the speeches of the three valedictories and the Commencement speaker were presented via previously recorded messages. As Tracy White, senior academic advisor, performed the Presentation of Graduates, names were displayed on the screen.
There might not have been as much noise and commotion in front of Le Mans Hall following the ceremony, but as Nekvasil said at the end, “I hope there is lots of joy and clapping in your homes.”
But whether a commencement is traditional or very untraditional, as this virtual one was, nothing can diminish the days, months, and years of toil and triumph on the part of the 400 undergraduate and graduate students. Perhaps their Commencement will be all the more memorable when their children, in years to come, ask “What did you do during the coronavirus pandemic, mommy?”
Congratulations to the 2020 graduates as they face a world unlike any entered by previous Saint Mary’s College classes. Now more than ever, the world will need their courage, compassion, creativity, and brilliance. And we know, as Saint Mary’s women, they will deliver.