The in-person Graceland University Spring 2020 commencement ceremony originally scheduled for April 26 and rescheduled for Oct. 3 was ultimately canceled over health concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, Graceland instead opted for a virtual commencement ceremony for the graduates and their friends and family on the rescheduled date, which premiered on the university’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
The premier virtual event began at 11 a.m. central time. Graceland President Patricia H. Draves welcomed everyone watching and acknowledged the disappointment felt by all who hoped to have the in-person commencement experience with the class of 2020. Draves said, “Although the last few months didn’t turn out the way we had all planned, don’t let that define your Graceland experience – or your future. You have done great things here at Graceland, and you have great things in store for you.”
Michelle Waite ‘83, Graceland Board of Trustees secretary, offered the invocation. President Draves then introduced the first virtual commencement speaker, Ivan Joseph ’96, Graceland Board of Trustees, who spoke of his own Graceland experience and how it has led to the success he has had throughout his life as a soccer coach, director of athletics and currently a vice president.
Joseph, who coached Graceland University Men’s Soccer to a national championship win in 2006 and has gone on to coach and lead winning teams beyond Graceland, shared the inspiration for that success. “Every single thing I did to build a high-performing team came from my student life experience, my leadership experience, my time working with those great coaches that surround you at Graceland University.” He continued, “I share those experiences not to talk about the things I’ve done in my 20 years, but to tell you how informed your liberal arts experience will be in shaping who you will become and how successful you will be as you leave Lamoni.”
As he closed, Joseph spoke of the bonds and the relationships made at Graceland and how important those will be in the lives of this year’s graduates. “No one does anything alone. My Graceland family is still my family. Friends forever.”
Next, Vice President for Academic Affairs Jill Rhea presented faculty awards to Assistant Professor of Allied Health James Geiselman for Excellence in Scholarly Achievement and Associate Professor of Business Max Pitt for Exceptional Service in a video pre-recorded in the Shaw Amphitheatre on the Lamoni campus before a masked and socially distanced audience of their faculty colleagues. Michele Black ‘81, Graceland Alumni Board President, then presented Assistant Professor of English Catherine Clifford with the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching also in a pre-recorded video. Read more about this year’s faculty awards in this article.
Rhea then led the conferring of degrees, and Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Dave Schaal ‘80 recognized the graduates by reading their names as a recognition screen was displayed for each graduate.
Once all the names were read, which took approximately 18 minutes, Harry Ashenhurst ’70, Graceland Board of Trustees chair, offered a congratulations to the graduates before Black made an alumni induction statement and the class of 2020 was officially recognized as Graceland alumni. President Draves offered closing remarks for the virtual event, and the Graceland choirs sang the Alma Mater Hymn under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music Sara Blessing. Finally, 2019-20 Graceland Student Government President Randallynn Smith ’20 offered the benediction.
The class of 2020 consisted of 533 graduates from 35 states and 11 countries. They earned 558 degrees: 323 bachelor’s degrees, 229 master’s degrees and six Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees.
Find the program for the virtual commencement ceremony here.