FLORENCE, S.C. — Over Francis Marion University’s 50-year history, members of every graduating class have received their degrees at a formal commencement ceremony.
The coronavirus outbreak, disrupting though it may be, isn’t going to end that streak.
FMU President Fred Carter said Wednesday that university officials are hard at work planning a special ceremony for the spring class of 2020. The event will replace the original May 9 commencement, which was canceled because of the governor’s executive orders closing South Carolina public colleges and universities.
Carter promised that the rescheduled event will be a day to remember.
“Commencements at FMU are distinctive events that our graduates cherish for the rest of their lives,” Carter said. “We were all saddened by the cancellation of our May commencement, but even then we were thinking about how we could keep this vital tradition alive for this year’s graduates.”
Carter said the current plans envision a ceremony sometime in late summer or early fall. Outdoor venues are under consideration, and special attention will be given to seating that will allow both graduates and their guests to practice effective social distancing. The ceremony itself might be abbreviated, but the pageantry and tradition will be preserved, Carter said.
“The graduates will march into the venue, be recognized publicly, cross the stage and receive their diplomas,” Carter said. “The historic educational transformation will be observed and honored.”
Carter said commencement details will be delivered to graduates as soon as they are finalized. Some of the timing is, of course, related to the coronavirus situation and the state’s response to it.
Except for the revised date of the ceremony, the graduation process will continue on the normal semester timetable. Graduating seniors will receive their actual diplomas in early May.
They will receive facsimile degrees and be able to flip their tassels and engage in other traditions at the special commencement ceremony this summer.
And a half-century tradition will be sustained.