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Spring 2020 graduates finally accept diplomas at in-person commencement

On Friday, October 23, Stockton University finally held its spring 2020 commencement ceremony for students who graduated last semester during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The commencement was broken into eight separate ceremonies, which held up to 150 graduates, sat six feet apart, and two guests.

Above: Socially distanced spring 2020 graduates seated at their formal commencement. Photo courtesy of Lauren Forte.

The eight ceremonies took place one hour apart beginning at 9:30 a.m. The last ceremony began at 4:30 p.m. and ended before 5:30 p.m.

Students like Lauren Forte, now a graduate with her Bachelor’s degree, felt the ceremony gave the “closure” needed to end this chapter in her life. “Since originally it was suppose to happen five months ago, the anticipation was building and it felt like a sense of relief,” said Forte. “I’m so glad I finally got to walk despite the current circumstances.”

Each ceremony was introduced by the Academic Dean of the school(s) of graduates. Each introduction was followed by speaker Raymond R. Ciccone, Chair of the Stockton University Board of Trustees, who encouraged the graduates to remain an active part of the Stockton community as they join more than the 50,000 alumni.

Following Ciccone, President Dr. Harvey Kesselman gave his congratulations to graduates and saw them off before their names were called.

Live stream of the 9:30 a.m. ceremony.

“Life sometimes throws us much more than lemons. It may seem as though we’re dodging fast sharp-breaking curveballs. The fact of the matter is- things happen…

“We must always remain flexible and we must always remain adaptable… we cannot allow life’s curveballs to take us out of the game.”

“March on” Kesselman told the graduates.

The first ceremony was introduced by Dr. Claudine Keenan, Dean of Education. The ceremony introduced students graduating from the schools of Business, Education, and General Studies.

Following the first ceremony was for the graduates of The Natural Sciences and Mathematics and began with Peter Straub, Dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, as the Master of Ceremonies (MC) for this ceremony.

Alphonso Ogbuehi, Dean of the School of Business introduced the third ceremony and then Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Amy Beth Glass served as MC for the fifth ceremony for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at 1:30 p.m. Part two of the ceremony for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences was held at 3:30, also by Dr. Glass.

Also at the 3:30 ceremony, Zakiya Smith Ellis, Chief Policy Advisor for the Office of the Governor for the State of New Jersey, spoke.

The graduation ceremony for the School of Health Sciences was also broken up into two parts, at 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm, both MCed by Margaret Sussler Dean of the school.

Lisa Honaker, Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, introduced the final ceremony. For this ceremony, the National Anthem was performed on saxophone by Robert Fell.

Students were called by name to walk across the stage, however hand-shakes were not permitted for these ceremonies, and alll students, guests and faculty wore masks throughout the ceremony. Speakers removed their masks when giving commencement addresses to the students.

“I wish I could’ve had the ceremony at Boardwalk Hall with my professors, but I’m glad the school did something instead of doing nothing at all,” said Forte. “This ceremony went by so fast and it felt so surreal…but I made the best out of it. I got to walk across the stage, and that’s what matters the most.”