October 5, 2020
Mars Hill University’s spring graduates finally got the chance to walk across the graduation stage as the university held a socially-distanced in-person commencement on Sunday, October 4, 2020.
Graduates and their families processed along the university quadrangle, known as Lunsford Commons, to a stage set up in front of the Founders Memorial fountain. While the families watched from ground level, the graduates climbed the steps of the stage to be welcomed by Provost Tracy Parkinson and to receive their diploma from President Tony Floyd. Chaplain Stephanie McLeskey, faculty Chair Amanda Knapp, and board of trustees Chair Linda Judge-McRae, also participated in the ceremony.
Floyd told the graduates, “I know this is not exactly how you planned it, but I want you to know today we’re so proud of you; you’re incredible; and this day is to honor you. We are thankful for you. As our chaplain said, we give thanks to God for you.”
Prior to processing onto the Lunsford Commons, each graduate and family group gathered under a check-in tent for temperature checks and hand sanitizing. The three-hour ceremony allowed the family groups to be spaced out, consistent with social distancing guidelines.
Spring graduates had their degrees conferred in May, and were recognized in a video featuring their photos and words of celebration from faculty. But COVID-19 forced the postponement of their in-person commencement.
Today’s ceremony also included students who completed their degree requirements in August following the summer term. August graduates ordinarily are recognized at the end of the fall semester, along with December graduates. But with the pandemic-revised academic calendar combining December’s commencement with the spring 2021 ceremony, the August graduates were able to celebrate today. In all, the May and August graduates total 167, and 84 of them signed up to walk the stage in today’s commencement ceremony.
“You’re amazing,” Floyd told the graduates. “You’re going to do great things in the world. So today as we pause to honor you and smile behind our masks, just know that this is a special place and you’re special to us.”