FLORENCE, S.C. — Francis Marion University held four in-person commencement ceremonies this weekend for its spring and summer 2020 graduating classes.
The ceremonies, held in the Smith University Center, replaced the normal commencement ceremony, which was postponed last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The university divided the event into four separate ceremonies with limited attendance to assist with social distancing. There were approximately 40 graduates at each ceremony. Each grad was limited to four guests. Faculty and other university attendees were significantly reduced as well.
No honorary doctorates were awarded and no special speaker was invited to deliver a commencement address. However, Dr. Fred Carter, president of FMU, spoke briefly at each of the four events. Carter lauded the graduates for their unique status among graduating classes at FMU, telling them that “no class has ever graduated from this university under more trying circumstances.
“This,” said Carter, “is an accolade that I’ll extend to you now, that I suspect you’ll repeat many times in the years ahead. I hope you do; you’ve earned the right. And I apologize now to your future grandchildren, who will likely hear about what it took to complete your degree many, many times from each of you — rightly so, I might add.”
The spring graduating class spent the last seven weeks of the spring semester in unexpected online instruction due to the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carter also told the graduates that their unusual circumstances left him in a unique position as well.
He had no parting words or wisdom for them.
“What do I say to a class who accomplished what you did?” said Carter. “Nothing — I simply congratulate you for a remarkable achievement under the most trying of circumstances... We’ll hold all of you up as an example to other classes for the next generation or so.”
The events provided graduates with a chance to wear their cap, gown, and mask and be honored in front of family and friends. All graduates had received their actual diplomas earlier by mail.
Graduates were assigned to particular ceremonies by the FMU school or college from which they graduated. The events began with ceremonies for the School of Business and School of Education Friday evening. College of Liberal Arts graduates, divided by academic departments, marched in two separate events on Saturday morning and afternoon. And graduates from the School of Health Sciences marched on Saturday evening.