Attendance may have been smaller, but the exuberance was not diminished as family and friends shouted out for the first of twelve groups of Pennsylvania College of Technology students that crossed the stage at the Community Arts Center to receive their diplomas from Dr. Davie Jane
Gilmour, president of the college.
Over the course of three days the college is expected to graduate 794 students from both the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 classes.
Several nods are being made to the fact that the event took place during a pandemic, with not only fewer guests in attendance with all required to wear masks and seating being staggered to accommodate social distancing.
“Your final year with us has been like no other. The ongoing COVID pandemic has demanded much of you with restricted protocols and changing many facets of the full collegiate experience,” Gilmour told the graduates.
“Your largely faithful compliance with our protocols is precisely why we were able to finish the 2020-21 academic year. We finished it with no interruptions with face-to-face instruction and hands-on learning, a mode of education which defines this institution and sets us apart from many colleges and universities across this country,” she added.
During the commencement ceremonies, students were given the option of shaking Gilmour’s hand when receiving their diploma — which all students seemed to prefer–or opting for a fist or elbow bump instead. Between each student, Gilmour sanitized her hands, a practice which will continue for each graduation this weekend.
“Navigating this year has tested your mettle again and again and you never wavered. Your perseverance in the face of previously unimaginable adversity has brought us to this defining moment,” Gilmour said.
“With the protocols that we have in place to ensure everyone’s safety, we hope this ceremony today will provide milestone memories that each of you and every member of your families can cherish forever. We were determined to offer a commencement format that reflects our unique mission and values and the opportunity to honor you in person means more to me than you will ever know,” she added.
Student speaker for the Friday 11 a.m. ceremony was Joseph Matthew Morrin, graphic design, for today’s 5 p.m. ceremony, Ethan M. McKenzie, information technology: software and information management will speak live and tomorrow’s 3 p.m. ceremony will feature Olivia Ferki, plastics and polymer engineering technology will speak. Their taped remarks will be shown at the other nine ceremonies.
Morrin shared a synopsis of his four years at Penn College, often eliciting laughter from the crowd as he interspersed the serious moments with humor.
Acknowledging that he looked back on his years at the college with pride and accomplishment, Morrin said that there were a few moments that stood out in what he described as a “roller coaster ride.”
“I pulled one too many all-nighters, went to midnight breakfast and slept through a final,” he said, thanking his professor for not failing him.
He noted that during the shutdown and the move to remote classes last spring because of the pandemic, he was able to catch up on much needed sleep.
“Quarantine was absolutely one of the best things to ever happen to me. Before then I was so ready to throw in the towel and quit. I was stressed, overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted and just burned out,” he said.
He ended his remarks by telling the other graduates, “Each one of you here represents the best of Penn College and I’m honored to share that distinction with you.”
In her closing remarks, Gilmour said, “It is my honor to be the last person to get to share some thoughts with you before you go out into the world.”
She said that she had found a quote, which was attributed to several sources — “Happiness is the new rich. Kindness is the new cool. Health is the new wealth and inner peace is the new success,”
“I’d like to add one of my own. The college certificate or degree that you’ve earned is the key to your future,” she said.
“Through your hard work and the commitment of the faculty and staff at Penn College, you have the opportunity to start a new chapter which opens a new life for you,” she added.
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