This year’s graduation will include undergraduate and graduate students, a total of 698 candidates, in the same ceremony.
While many are apprehensive of this combination, this idea is not new for Mercyhurst. Traditionally, graduation has been held as one ceremony.
“[The graduations] were separated because the classes were getting too large to be held in the Warner Theatre.
Then, we had adult graduation with the adult students and graduate students. Then, the adult students wanted to be with the traditional students so they moved over and it was just a graduate ceremony,” Sister Patricia Whalen, registrar said.
Graduation is now held at the Erie Insurance Arena, where there is plenty of room for all graduation candidates and their families and friends.
“You just get into the habit of doing what you’ve been doing,” said Whalen. “With the new president and fresh eyes, he decided we should recombine them. It’s my understanding that President Victor is quite interested in maintaining tradition and restoring it.”
Many are concerned about the length of the combined ceremony.
“I’m not sure how long it will be, at least two to two and a half hours. We’ve planned very carefully. We try to move it along in a respectful way,” Whalen said.
This year will also feature Thomas Hagen, Chairman of the Board of Erie Insurance Group, as commencement speaker. During the ceremony, Mercyhurst will give Hagen the honorary Doctor of Laws degree for his community contributions.
“The honorary degree recognizes Hagen’s lifelong commitment to community leadership and his unwavering dedication to public service to the greater Erie community and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Debbie Morton, director of public relations and media relations manager said.
Mercyhurst graduations have not featured a commencement speaker outside of the university in many years.
“Hagen is the Chairman of the Board of Erie Insurance Group, where he began as a part-time file clerk in 1953. He retired 40 years later as chairman and chief executive officer of the only Fortune 500 company headquartered in Erie, which just this past year celebrated its 90-year anniversary,” Morton said.
During the ceremony, the dean of the candidate’s respective college will read the candidate’s name and announce his or her major. Diplomas will not be given out at the ceremony because grades are not finalized until after the commencement ceremony.
“Each of our graduates walks across the stage, shakes hands with the president and the board president. They get their picture taken with the president and with their diploma cover,” said Whalen.
While there are many names to be read at graduation, with 615 of the 698 candidates participating in the ceremony, it is a special moment for everyone to be recognized for their accomplishment.
“It really is a lovely day, and I’ve enjoyed working with it. There is excitement in the air. People are just waiting for their son or daughter to walk across the stage,” said Whalen. “It’s also a day of remembrance and gratitude, I think, of getting an education and attending a university. It’s a day worth celebrating. The friendships that have been formed and the wonderful memories throughout the time with studies.”
Students will be recognized for their achievements on graduation day, Sunday, May 22.