WSU’s 115th commencement ceremony saw more than 5,700 spring and summer graduates finally celebrate their graduation on Aug. 29. The sun has now set on WSU’s graduating class of 2020 — “The Class That Persevered.”
Attendees came to support their family members, classmates and loved ones who were not able to attend commencement as anticipated due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Graduates were seated on the stadium’s field, socially-distanced. Both sides of the stadium’s bleachers were as full as could be with attendees socially distanced.
Crystal Maggelet, CEO of FJ Management Inc., and a member of the Utah State Board of Higher Education, received an invitation in Jan. 2020 to speak at spring commencement and had planned to speak at the April ceremony.
The Honorary Degree Committee granted Maggelet a degree at WSU. President Brad Mortensen asked her to give the commencement speech for this “memorable” ceremony.
“Everything is different, and so no one can say, ‘We’ve always done it that way,’” Maggelet said. “I would say that graduating is that way too.”
During her speech, Maggelet asked the graduates how they would embrace the new normal, what they can do for others and what they would make of their lives one day at a time.
The graduates arrived at a new jumping-off-point in their lives; some are considering what to do with their degrees after finishing school while others continue their pursuit of higher educational goals.
One attendee, Rod Gerherdy, came out to support his daughter, who earned her high school diploma and had graduated with university certificates. He was happy to have the opportunity to come out and celebrate his daughter’s achievements.
“I think we can get back to normal, responsibly, and enjoy events like this,” Gerherdy said. “It looks like they did a great job with plenty of space between the students and everybody here, I applaud WSU for doing it.”
However, this belated commencement was socially-restricted by pandemic requirements, meaning that graduates did not walk, at least not in the traditional sense.
WSU acknowledged all of the students, with Mortensen asking all to rise and turn the tassels on their caps from the right side to the left. Then, each graduate’s name was called out; the graduates stood and faced the closest camera, which showed them on video display on the southern scoreboard screen, and the seated attendees applauded the students individually.
Mortensen spoke on the challenges the Class of 2020 pushed through: academic challenges like midterms, finals, clinicals, group projects and capstones, as well as the emotional and financial struggles students normally face. On top of all that, Mortensen acknowledged the trials of the pandemic.
“When we announced on March 12 that we would be moving to an online format, it collectively felt that the degree of difficulty for your climb to your degree increased 10-fold,” Mortensen said. “It was like the earth shifted beneath you; wait, the earth really did shift beneath you because we had an earthquake right after.”
Ultimately, Mortensen stressed during the ceremony that there will always be unforeseeable challenges that life presents, challenges that cannot be prepared or planned for, but the class that persevered will be ready for them.
“Weber State graduates,” Mortensen said, “may you remember that sometimes the challenges that you are preparing for are not the challenges you will face.”