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OU holds first hybrid commencement ceremonies since beginning of the pandemic

Commencement ceremonies for the Ohio University class of 2021 were held April 30 through May 2 at Peden Stadium. The ceremonies included students from each of OU’s academic colleges over the three day period. 

Graduate Student Commencement, Friday

A number of Ohio University masters and doctoral students received recognition during Friday morning’s spring commencement ceremony at Peden Stadium, which took place both virtually and in-person.

Students from all colleges were present and those who attended in-person were wearing masks and sitting socially distanced. Matthew Evans, member of the Board of Trustees, welcomed students and faculty.

“I am also proud to welcome the family members and the friends of our graduates,” Evans said. “I am very happy to see you all here today in person, and I’m thrilled to have so many of you watching online.”

OU President Duane Nellis also gave welcoming remarks and recognized Srdjan Nesic, a professor in the Russ College of Engineering, as the 2021 distinguished professor. 

“Each of you will forever be part of the Ohio community,” Nellis said. “So today, as we honor you for your accomplishments, I want you to enjoy this day. Soak this moment up. Bask in it. Celebrate it. You deserve to be proud.”

Nellis also introduced commencement speaker Susan Williams, a professor in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. In her speech, Williams drew from her research and emphasized the importance of recognizing distortion in a social-media focused world.

“By encouraging skepticism and ambivalence, I am certainly not asking you to tune out the world or deny its injustices,” Williams said. “We intuitively understand and accepted what Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel means when he says, ‘The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.’”

Williams also encouraged students to cultivate a sense of empathy for one another, referring to how we calibrate ourselves.

“I think it would be helpful for all of us to think of calibration as an honest and continual re-centering to our fundamental emotional needs,” she said. “The need for love, friendship, compassion, safety and respect, so that these are the origin of and central to everything we do.”

Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs awarded Brandon Kendhammer, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, with the 2021 Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award. Sayrs thanked all professors and faculty for the dedication to their students and for their enthusiasm for their disciplines.

“Thank you for caring so deeply about our students, especially in this last year,” Sayrs said.

Joseph Shields, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate College, announced the 2021 spring doctoral graduates. In-person graduates were able to approach the podium with their respective faculty members to receive their hoods. Graduates who were participating virtually were then announced, followed by masters graduates, who were asked to stand and be recognized when their name was called. 

Undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies, Saturday

OU students in the College of Business and the Scripps College of Communication graduated Saturday morning at Peden Stadium during a hybrid ceremony, with both an in-person and virtual option. 

Board of Trustees Chair Janelle Coleman opened the ceremony by welcoming the family and friends of the 2021 graduates. 

“I am very happy to see you here today in-person, and I am thrilled to also have so many of you watching online,” Coleman said. “We have a lot to celebrate today and…I want to be the first to say, ‘congratulations.’” 

Nellis proceeded to welcome virtual and in-person guests to the ceremony. He also recognized those in the Board of Trustees, academic leaders, administrators, university Senate representatives and outstanding faculty who were in attendance.  

“On behalf of our graduates, thank you faculty, for your creativity, your passion and your dedication,” Nellis said. “You have prepared this next generation of thinkers, leaders and scholars to succeed in their chosen fields.” 

The 2021 undergraduate commencement speaker Leanne Ford gave the undergraduate commencement address after being introduced by Nellis. Ford is a HGTV star and a 2003 OU graduate who studied specialized studies during her time in Athens, according to a previous Post report

Ford presented her remarks virtually, and opened by stating she has never met a Bobcat she didn’t like. She continued to offer the graduates life advice she has learned since graduating. 

Ford advised graduates to move past the failures they will inevitably face and also encouraged the class of 2021 to avoid comparing their successes and failures to others.

“Be sure what you are doing is filling your soul, while you try to fill your bank account,” Ford said. “Don’t aim to be famous, aim to be good. Aim to be good to people.” 

Sayrs recognized outstanding faculty on behalf of the university and thanked them for their work, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sayrs also recognized students graduating cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude by allowing those with honors to stand at their seats, which were spaced six feet apart. 

Jackie Rees Ulmer, dean of the College of Business, introduced the business college graduates and Scott Titsworth, dean of the Scripps College of Communication, presented communication college graduates. Students' names were read aloud, and they were able to stand at their seat when their names were called. 

Later Saturday, a commencement ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences, the Patton College of Education and the Russ College of Engineering was held at 4:00 p.m. Like the other ceremonies, students sat socially distanced inside Peden stadium.

Nellis offered his appreciation to Renee Middleton, dean of the Patton College of Education, as she is is stepping down from her position in June. He took time to touch on the unknown aspects of the graduates’ college careers. He spoke about the good and the bad, making a nod to COVID-19. 

“When you chose to become a Bobcat, you had no idea what was in store for you. You had no way of knowing about how a global pandemic would change all of our lives. You couldn't have predicted how our classrooms would change,” Nellis said. “At the same time, you didn't foresee the strong friendships you would make, or the life changing experiences that were ahead of you. And you couldn't have envisioned the person you've grown to be today.”

After Nellis spoke, Ford gave her commencement speech virtually where she encouraged graduates to find what they’re passionate about. 

“So, you've got your degree, check. You've got your ideas, check. Now, find yourself a career that sets your heart on fire,” Ford said. 

Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony, Sunday

OU undergraduate students from the College of Fine Arts, Honors Tutorial College, College of Health Sciences and Professions, Center for International Studies and University College graduated on Sunday afternoon, concluding the commencement ceremonies for the class of 2021. 

Evans started the ceremony at 2 p.m. and thanked those who made the commencement possible. Nellis followed with his own speech congratulating the students. Ford spoke next to the graduates about entering their futures.

Sayrs recognized those graduating with honors and presented the students to Nellis. Nellis led the students in turning their tassels. 

The deans of the respective colleges of Sunday’s ceremony presented their graduates.

Evans congratulated the class of 2021 once more and convened the ceremony. 

“Congratulations once again to all of our graduates,” Evans said. “I am very proud to welcome you, the class of 2021, into our world renowned family of alumni.”

Emma Skidmore, Molly Wilson, Ryan Maxin and Claire Schiopota contributed to this report. 

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