Despite the cancellation of what would have been the largest commencement in Lee University’s history, the school still plans to celebrate its graduates this weekend.
“Though I won’t be able to hand them their diploma as I had hoped, we will not let this weekend pass without recognizing the hard work of each of our graduates,” said Lee President Dr. Paul Conn.
Along with the conferral of diplomas, Dr. Conn had been slated to deliver the commencement address at this weekend’s ceremony. It would have been the first time for him to make the keynote speech at the event, which he has hosted 93 times.
The recognition of graduates will include videos of congratulations from President Conn and the six deans of Lee’s schools and colleges, and video messages from fellow graduates sharing their Lee experience. These will appear on all of Lee’s social media channels during the weekend, along with a video scroll of every graduate’s name. Tolling bells traditionally ring out a long celebratory peal at the conclusion of commencement. This will occur in the graduates’ absence to honor their accomplishment.
In addition to a few other surprises, each graduate is receiving a customized box with their regalia, diploma, a printed program of the event, and a Bible signed by Dr. Conn, all items each graduate receives in the traditional weekend ceremonies.
Dr. Conn announced the cancellation in an email to all graduates on July 16, followed by an emotional video the next day. “As painful as it is to reach this decision, I believe for us to bring such big crowds together on campus is just too risky. My first responsibility is to keep you and your families safe and well.”
During the July video, the Lee president included an open invitation for them to come back as “VIP marchers” in future commencements throughout 2020 and 2021. He also said the Class of 2020 will be invited back to campus for “the mother of all reunion parties,” once it can be done safely.
For this weekend, during the pandemic, the campus will not take on its accustomed flood of families, but by this time next week, more than 760 spring and summer graduates will have been recognized, addressed and celebrated, capping what will still be a school record for the most degrees conferred in a single school year.
To view videos being prepared to mark the occasion, visit the university’s social media channels.
To find out more about the fall semester and other COVID-19 updates, visit www.leeuniversity.edu/coronavirus/