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In-person graduation in May for WVUP

PARKERSBURG –West Virginia University at Parkersburg will be holding an in-person graduation ceremony in May, its first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

College President Chris Gilmer informed the university’s Board of Governors of the plans during their regular meeting on Wednesday.

The socially-distanced outdoor commencement will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 8, on the back lawn of the Parkersburg campus. In case of inclement weather, the event will be postponed until 2 pm. Saturday, May 15.

“It is especially important for our community to celebrate commencement this year,” Gilmer said. “It is always one of the most important traditions of any college and a well-deserved recognition of the hard work of the graduates and their families.

“As we have endured the COVID-19 pandemic for so long, and even as we must still remain vigilant to ensure the health and safety of our community, it seems especially important to observe a moment of collective joy after all the community and the world have been through this past year.”

Torie Jackson, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, said the university is planning to award 343 degrees, including 110 Bachelor and 233 Associate/Certificate to around 300 students.

At this point, there are 123 ceremony participants, including 12 from 2020, she said.

“This year’s commencement will celebrate not only those who have earned their credentials during the past academic year, but also those who we were not able to provide with a commencement in May 2020 and December 2020,” Gilmer said. “I promised them, even as I reluctantly took commencement away because of the pandemic, that we would welcome them all back the next time we hosted a face-to-face commencement.

“On May 8, 2021, we hope to honor that promise. We are hosting the event outside so that we have abundant room to spread out and maintain proper social distancing.”

Gilmer said if weather becomes an issue, the ceremony will not be moved indoors. Also, no official receptions will be held, to promote social distancing.

However, an outdoor pinning ceremony for WVU Parkersburg’s student nurses will occur following the commencement ceremony and observing the same protocols.

“This is an important milestone in the lives of student nurses, and we are happy to support them,” Gilmer said. “We note, however, that they are not receiving any special consideration for their events which is not received by the other academic programs, because the annual pinning ceremony is the only such academic program which has been part of WVU-P’s commencement traditions in recent years.”

Gilmer thanked everyone who is working hard to plan a safe commencement ceremony for the graduates and their families.

“WVU-P was forced to cancel the May 2020 commencement and to move the December 2020 commencement to an innovative series of individual events,” he said. “As we begin the attempt to resume some sense of normalcy, the administration determined to allow spring 2021 commencement to move forward in a limited way, recognizing the importance of this milestone to our graduates and to the community.”

Many other colleges and universities nationwide are planning similar events including West Virginia University, he said.

“WVU-P reserves the right to make any changes to current plans which guidelines from public health or other local, state, or federal authorities require, with as much advance notice to participants as possible,” Gilmer said. “Masks will be required for participation even though the event is outside.”

Jackson will be this year’s commencement speaker, She is an alumna of WVU-P and the current senior administrator with the longest service at the college.

In other business, the board confirmed honorary degrees for former Board of Governors members Sam Winans and Cheryl Donohoe for the meritorious service they provided which will be conferred at the May commencement.

The university also approved honorary degrees for its commencement speakers and approved one for Jackson for her upcoming speech.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran and West Virginia native Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, the last living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, spoke at the college a number of years back. Through an oversight, he was not presented with a honorary degree which is the tradition for all their commencement speakers. The board approved Gilmer’s request to rectify that oversight.

Contact Brett Dunlap at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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