Universities in Abilene adjust commencement ceremonies to safety protocols

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ABILENE, Texas. (KTAB/KRBC)- On Saturday, Hardin-Simmons University held two separate commencement ceremonies. To make sure to abide by Governor Abbott’s executive order, the university required everyone attending their graduation ceremonies to wear masks. Hardin-Simmons University Provost Dr. Christopher McNair says, holding the graduation outside allowed the university to create a safe environment for everyone in attendance.

“By putting it on the football field, which a lot of universities do traditionally anyway, we can use our video board to stream it, and then still follow appropriate social distancing guidelines and still have a great celebration,” said Dr. McNair.

According to Dr. McNair, despite the noticeable changes, the university wanted to make this experience as normal as possible for their graduates.

To limit the amount of people inside Kimbrell Arena, McMurry University decided to only allow graduates, professors, and staff to participate in their graduation ceremony. McMurry streamed their graduation live on their website, so anyone who was not in attendance could be a part of the ceremony virtually.

“Our whole family has worked our whole lives to get us to great institutions like this. We spent four years, day in and day out to get this diploma, and just having the opportunity to simply walk the stage means the world to all of us,” said 2020 McMurry University graduate Michael Dontae Blakemore.

Blakemore says he wishes his family could have been in attendance, but he appreciates the safety measures McMurry took to keep everyone as safe as possible.

Abilene Christian University usually holds its commencement ceremonies inside Moody Coliseum, but this year graduation was held at Anthony Field. According to Abilene Christian University registrar Eric Gumm, this is the first time in 53-years the university held graduation outside. According to Gumm, the university conducted multiple surveys to find out how students and their families felt about having in-person ceremonies. 80% of those who responded said, they wanted to have a ceremony in person. Gumm says there were a lot of hoops to jump through to make the commencement ceremonies happen this year.

“The guidelines about what type of gatherings are allowed have been changing over the last three months, so we’ve been in communication with the Governor’s office, with the Mayor’s office, with the County Commissioners here in town, and we’ve received great support from all of those levels,” said Gumm.

Gumm says Abilene Christian University had representatives attend Abilene ISD’s graduation ceremonies to learn from them as much as they could, before holding their own.

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