A Commencement like no other


This year’s Commencement at Manchester University was like no other.

As the Class of 2020 finished classes remotely under Indiana’s stay-at-home order, the opportunity for a traditional in-person Commencement in May evaporated. Five months later, on Saturday, Oct. 17, 138 undergraduates and 24 in MU’s graduate and professional programs returned to Manchester to participate in several small Commencement ceremonies in Cordier Auditorium.

A number of this year’s graduates “made it clear that they wanted an in-person Commencement,” said President Dave McFadden ’82.

The University conferred degrees at four ceremonies: graduate and professional; honors graduates and the College of Pharmacy, Natural and Health Sciences; the College of Arts and Humanities and the College of Education and Social Sciences; and the Gilbert College of Business, including Master of Accountancy graduates.

“This is not the typical May Commencement for which we were hoping. The coronavirus threw you a curveball,” McFadden told the graduates. “In the past seven months, you have learned a lot about persistence and resilience. The proof is that you are sitting here today to receive your degrees.”

This year’s ceremonies were closed to the public and graduates could invite a limited number of guests. Masks and social distancing were required and the auditorium was cleaned and disinfected between each ceremony.

“It may not feel like it now, but you are stronger, not in spite of the past seven months, but because of them,” McFadden said. “The lessons you have learned from this experience will help you succeed for the rest of your lives.”

Campus Pastor Bekah Houff echoed those sentiments at a Baccalaureate service Oct. 16 delivered via Zoom. “Though this celebration and this weekend does not look like what we planned, these changes did not diminish the hard work and dedication that got our students here, nor are we any less proud of their accomplishments,” she told graduates.

“In March, our world was turned upside down,” Matthew Roop ’20 told his classmates in a videotaped speech. “But just as we hoped it would, our time here at Manchester prepared us for the unthinkable better than we could have expected.” Roop added that, “Manchester has taught us to be good students, good people and how to deal with uncertain times. Thank you to everyone who helped us along the way.”

At the Baccalaureate service, Laura Brubaker ’20 told her classmates, “We remember learning that challenged us, our faith and values that guided us through the calm and the storm, opportunities to serve the community around us, and the gift of our diverse community to learn from one another’s experiences. We gather today, giving thanks for this journey and this place that taught us to be people of integrity, ability and conviction.”

McFadden acknowledged the unique place this class holds in Manchester history. “We are always proud of our graduating classes, but especially proud of the Class of 2020,” he said. “We have been through a lot together and you will always have a special place in our hearts.”