A Virtual Graduation Celebration Like No Other

Congratulations to the Classes of 2021 and 2020! Since we weren’t able to gather in person to celebrate, Maryville hosted a mixture of live virtual ceremonies and on-demand ceremony videos. Extensive planning and collaboration among faculty, staff and students made these robust virtual experiences engaging and meaningful for all graduating students.

“Our graduates deserved special recognition for their achievements and resilience in the face of the pandemic,” said Maryville President Mark Lombardi, PhD. “While we wanted to be together sharing in the joy of our graduating students, these virtual experiences provided the greatest health benefit to our community while also allowing our graduating students to share this special moment with their loved ones. There’s nothing more important than the health and safety of our students and their families.”

Maryville honored each graduating student by building one-of-a-kind personalized graduation celebration web pages. The pages featured photos, videos and written messages of congratulations, love and encouragement from University leadership, faculty, staff, family and friends. Maryville received 5,895 photos; 2,540 videos; and 6,982 written submissions that were then reviewed and posted to the web pages. Graduates were able to download the content as a keepsake.

“It was fun to see how families and friends celebrated their graduating students,” said Executive Director of University Events Jaclyn Blankenship. “Some families submitted congratulatory videos that were scripted and included costumes and decorations. Other families created stages in their homes for their graduating students to walk across on Commencement day. It’s such an honor to witness these incredible behind-the-scenes details that our graduates are able to keep and hold onto for all the love out there for them.”

Maryville also hosted live virtual awards and recognition ceremonies. These included the John E. Simon School of Business Awards, the College of Arts and Sciences Awards and the Catherine McAuley School of Nursing Pinning Ceremony, a traditional event designed to pay homage to the field of nursing.

Paralympic Ski Medalist Bonnie St. John delivered the Commencement address. Despite having her right leg amputated at age five, St. John became the first African American ever to win medals in Winter Olympic competition, taking home a silver and two bronze medals in downhill events at the 1984 Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria. In addition to her success as a Paralympic athlete, she is a best-selling author, a highly sought-after keynote speaker, a television and radio personality, a business owner and a Fortune 500 leadership consultant.

St. John shared that at the 1984 Paralympics, she was ahead in the slalom. But in the second run, everyone fell on a dangerous spot. She was beaten by a woman who got up faster than she did, not a woman who skied faster than her. “I learned that people fall down and winners get up, and gold medal winners just get up faster.

“You should be so proud of yourself for persevering and making it through such a difficult time as the world has rarely seen before. As you think about what’s next in your life, remember you’re in a world where everyone has been knocked down. You don’t have to be perfect. All you have to do is try and get up a little bit faster. It’s not always easy to get up fast, so if you can help each other do that, that will make a tremendous difference,” she said.

While Maryville hosted Commencement ceremonies virtually for the Classes of 2021 and 2020 due to the continued public health risks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University remains committed to hosting in-person Commencement ceremonies for future classes.

For more information, including links to watch the live virtual ceremonies and on-demand ceremony videos, visit maryville.edu/commencement.

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