by Dana Beitey
For the first time in its history, Newman University held the spring 2020 Commencement Ceremony online. The event took place May 8 on the Newman website and the social media platforms of Facebook and YouTube.
Teresa Hall Bartels, interim president during the month of graduation, addressed the Newman community in a video email message before the event. She commended students for their flexibility, their tenacity and their patience during a difficult time, which so many were experiencing together. She also commended staff and faculty for the extraordinary efforts they made.
“Change and uncertainty are difficult for many of us,” said Bartels. “The faculty and staff at Newman have been doing an amazing job coping with and remaining vigilant during these times. Commencement and our Baccalaureate Mass are truly the best events of the year at Newman.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected life in so many ways. However, it can’t change the phenomenal accomplishments of this class of undergraduate and graduate students. Members of the class of 2020 have excelled academically, proven themselves as difference-makers in our communities and even competed at championship levels on the athletic field. Simply stated, they demonstrated the ability and passion to do amazing things. This pandemic was unexpected and very unsettling. I am humbled to have witnessed the grace and compassion that the students and the entire Newman community have shown.”
When the difficult decision was made to move the ceremony to a virtual format, staff and faculty joined forces to ensure the graduating class of 2020 felt celebrated and appreciated with a graduation ceremony that included the same traditions an in-person celebration would have provided.
Provost Kim Long started by congratulating the graduates and introduced guest speakers. Megan Cook, the 2019 Faculty Teaching Excellence Award recipient, was the 2020 commencement speaker. Cook spoke of the missed events COVID-19 took from students in the spring and the worry that the pandemic brought to individuals worldwide.
Yet through it all, the class of 2020 showed great determination and perseverance, overcoming unexpected challenges and showing tremendous grace. She encouraged them to continue with that resilience and face life with the same determination they showed through these unparalleled times.
“Periods of adversity cannot be avoided in life,” said Cook. “They are expected and can take many forms. They may be personal, professional, financial, emotional or something that involves all of these. How you react, recover and grow from adversity defines these periods of time, rather than the adverse situations themselves.”
The event’s filming took place during the weeks leading up to the online streaming in a collaborative effort that included the Registrar’s Office, the President’s Office, Academic Affairs, Student Life, University Relations, large numbers of staff, faculty and board members and the university’s sponsoring order, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ.
Newman University Board of Trustees Chair J.T. Klaus presented the graduating class with a challenge: “Be tempered by the historic events of 2020 but do not let yourself be defined by them. The Board of Trustees wants you to know that you are not our ‘COVID-19’ class of Newman University. You are and forever will be regarded as the Newman University Class of 2020.”
The 2020 Spring Commencement ceremony can be viewed on the Newman University YouTube channel.
The graduates have been invited to attend and walk during a future Newman commencement ceremony if they choose to do so.
Megan Cook, DNAP, 2020 Commencement Address
Board of Trustees Chair J.T. Klaus, 2020 Commencement Remarks
2020 Commencement Closing — A Franciscan Benediction