Around 800 Ohio University 2020 graduates are expected return to Athens for their in-person commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. Sept. 5 on College Green — where many commencement ceremonies took place prior to the construction of The Convo in the late 1960s.
In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the majority of the country into lockdown, OU announced the graduation ceremonies of that year would be postponed due to public health recommendations regulating gathering sizes.
At the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that gatherings over 50 people should not take place, according to a previous Post report. The ceremonies were originally scheduled to take place May 1-2, 2020.
The university said it would celebrate graduates before the end of the 2020 Spring Semester, according to the report. However, the spring graduates opted to have an in-person commencement ceremony whenever it was safe to do so, according to a previous Post report.
While OU encourages visitors to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it will not require masks to be worn during the graduation ceremony, as it is taking place outside, Liz Pahl, associate director of event management, said. Currently, the university requires all individuals — regardless of vaccination status — to wear masks indoors.
Additionally, Gillian Ice, special assistant to the president for public health operations, said the university strongly encourages guests and graduates returning to Athens to get a COVID-19 test prior to the ceremony. However, the university is not requiring such measures, as its resources are being allocated to active case management and outbreak mitigation across Athens and regional campuses, Ice said.
OU held a hybrid commencement ceremony in May for 2021 graduates. Students were required to wear masks and social distance and were not permitted to walk across the stage and be recognized. Instead, students stood at their seats and waved when their name was read aloud.
The 2020 ceremony will honor both graduate and undergraduate students. In addition to these graduates, Francis Papay, an expert in plastic surgery and facial reconstruction, and Richard Vincent, an osteopathic administrator, will receive honorary degrees. Pahl said the university is currently planning for graduates to walk toward the stage and be recognized.
The ceremony will feature Keith Hawkins, OU alumnus and professor of astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, as the commencement speaker. Hawkins is known for research focused on exploring formation, evolution and structure of the Milky Way Galaxy, according to the release. Hawkins graduated from OU in 2013.
“Ohio University is extremely pleased to host the Class of 2020 for this meaningful and memorable Commencement Ceremony,” OU President Hugh Sherman said in a university release. “We can’t wait to see these proud Bobcats once again and finally fully honor them for their achievements.”
The ceremony will also be livestreamed on OU’s commencement website for those unable to attend in person.