ECU to offer in-person commencement ceremony May 8

The Shawnee News-Star

ADA – The COVID-19 pandemic may have shut down in-person commencement ceremonies for consecutive East Central University graduating classes, but it won’t happen a third time.

ECU is making plans to host an in-person commencement at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 8, at Koi Ishto Stadium. The ceremony is for Spring and Summer 2021 graduate candidates, as well as the two 2020 graduating classes who were unable to experience an in-person commencement.

“We are delighted to provide a formal, in-person ceremony for our graduates this spring,” said Dr. Katricia Pierson, ECU president. “They have sacrificed a great deal this past year, and we are pleased to provide them with this important capstone experience.”

The outbreak in March 2020 initially caused the cancellation of an in-person commencement ceremony for Spring 2020 graduates. The continued spread of the virus throughout the rest of the year led to the subsequent cancellation of the Fall 2020 event as well.

In the continued absence of any kind of effective virus mitigation program, ECU officials erred on the side of safety and conducted its first-ever virtual commencement ceremony in December for both graduating classes. While it was no replacement for the pomp and circumstance of an in-person ceremony, the University wanted to do everything possible to honor graduates under those challenging circumstances.

With the emergence of effective vaccines in 2021 and the successful, collective adherence – for more than a year – to Covid-19 safety protocols on campus, ECU is now poised to return to an in-person ceremony. Safety protocols will still be followed, but University officials are happy to once again offer the tradition-rich, beloved ceremony that is arguably the apex experience for most college students and their families. It is the ceremonial payoff for years of hard work.

“I’m thrilled that we will have the opportunity to be recognized for our accomplishments,” said Natalie Jack, a senior from Ada. “After a full year of uncertainty, I think I can safely speak for my entire graduating class when I say we’re thankful for the decision to have an in-person ceremony.”

The spring ceremony at Koi Ishto Stadium will allow ample room for safe social distancing as well as the accommodation of guests for each participating graduate. Each participating graduate will receive a ticket allotment, and in turn that allotment will be figured on the number of graduates who participate in the ceremony. Participating 2020 graduates and Spring/Summer 2021 graduate candidates will be notified with ticket allotment details as quickly as possible after April 1.

“With many students, staff and faculty now inoculated against COVID-19, we believe we can more safely bring people together,” Pierson said. “We are grateful for the diligence and dedication of the ECU community in working together to keep the pandemic off campus.”

ECU will also offer a live stream of the commencement for those who choose to participate or view remotely. More announcements will be made as the information becomes available.