On Aug. 8 Southern Utah University celebrated the graduation of the class of 2020, after the commencement was postponed for nearly four months due to the worldwide pandemic.
The graduation ceremony was unique, with all attendees wearing masks and socially distancing where possible. Many attended virtually or in adjoining buildings.
These unique circumstances at the graduation and in the preceding semester, when students switched to online, were put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“We were thrown into a stress filled anxiety-inducing whirlwind of uncertainty that made for a final semester I’m sure none of us had anticipated. Over the past 6 months the world has given us countless reasons to lose hope,” said commencement speaker Elizabeth Lee. “But while the world has handed us all seemingly insurmountable challenges lately, both collectively and individually, hope can still be found.”
Lee is a Political Science and Strategic Communications major and fourth generation SUU graduate.
The energy of the graduates, well wishers and faculty didn’t seem to be affected in spite of the restrictions. Tradition was still kept as graduates were able to walk underneath the Carter Carillon bell tower for the first time since beginning at SUU, but connected with small round signs held by each faculty member and graduate, instead of the usual handshake.
Over 700 of the 2,059 total graduates received their diplomas at the ceremony, and family and friends filled the campus upper quad. University President Scott Wyatt recognized the graduates unable to return.
In her address, graduate and SUU first lady Kathy Wyatt added the stories of courage that she has learned from her classmates, including that of 92 year old Mary, who will be returning to school in the fall to complete her degree in theater. Mary said,
“One thing I have learned in life is that if your dreams don’t scare you to death they are not big enough.”
After the recognition of each graduate, National Alumni Council President Myndee Larsen led the symbolic changing of the tassel and honored the graduates and their generation.
“When the world shut down you taught us that learning does not stop. That when you can’t sit in a classroom, then you will change the classroom. When circumstances beyond your control try to hold you back, you pushed through those boundaries even though it meant working harder. You reminded us that when things don’t go our way then it is our responsibility to find a way to achieve life’s goals. This generation is teaching the world that when things are not fair, we will come together for a change.”
Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson Edwards, Senator Evan Vickers, and SUU Provost Dr. Jon Anderson were in attendance as well, adding their applause to the proud clapping of thousands of others in support of the graduates.
President Wyatt concluded the ceremony, closing his remarks with a sendoff that included confetti cannons and upbeat music.
“We look forward to seeing your accomplishments and your contributions to humanity. You’re gonna be great, and the world will be better because of each one of you.”
Congratulations to the Southern Utah University class of 2020.
Story By: Larissa Beatty