Members of the class of 2020 finally returned to campus Saturday to celebrate their graduation almost three months after their original scheduled commencement ceremony was postponed.
Restrictions and guidelines due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic delayed the ceremony. The event was originally scheduled for May 9 in Seth Grove Stadium.
Unlike previous commencement ceremonies, graduates spent most of their time with their families in their cars parked in the ShipRec commuter and storage parking lots.
However, some aspects of the ceremony were normal.
A smaller group of faculty and administrators processed behind mace bearer and music professor Blaine Shover to the tune “Pomp and Circumstance” before finding their socially distanced seats.
Campus Minister the Rev. Jan Bye offered a prayer after a recording of the national anthem.
Michael Ross, SU Council of Trustees chair, delivered his annual speech to graduates and their families.
“Wow. This is exactly how you all pictured your graduation when you started your Ship journey,” Ross said looking into the vehicle-filled lot. “A drive-thru graduation.”
“I suggested that we give you an Egg McMuffin with your diploma but that idea was killed by the organizing committee,” he said.
Ross emphasized that the class of 2020 has the most memorable and unique graduation in the school’s 149-year history.
Student Government Association (SGA) 2019-20 President Aven Bittinger reminded students that not even a global pandemic can take away their achievements.
“As we celebrate today, let us use our experiences from Shippensburg to move forward in life, unabashed by our convictions and tackle these problems head on,” Bittinger said. “With our education, let us leave the world better than we found it.”
SU President Laurie Carter addressed the parking lot of graduates and their families, explaining their accomplishments are no less significant despite the unfamiliar ceremony.
Carter said she shared a quote with graduates in December 2019 that applied to them but is now more applicable to the class of 2020.
“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect,” Carter said. “How naive our view of imperfect conditions was in December 2019.”
She spoke about the importance of perspective when celebrating successes or facing challenges in life.
Carter referred to studies where researchers found Olympic bronze medalists were often happier with their medals than silver medalists.
Carter said the bronze medalists came from a reference point of gratitude that they made it to the platform. However, silver medalists were disappointed they missed the gold.
“Take the imperfect conditions of the moment and stand on the bronze platform,” Carter said.
A flood of vehicle horns filled the air as SU officials conferred the degrees of graduates from the John L. Grove College of Business, College of Education and Human Services and the College of Arts and Sciences.
Graduates then departed their vehicles and walked along the stage as a university official read their name before receiving a scroll and an elbow bump from another official. One friend or family member accompanied the graduate to the stage area to take photos of his or her graduate.