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John Carroll, Baldwin Wallace Universities Honor Classes of 2021 & 2020

a photo of Baldwin Wallace commencement
Baldwin Wallace University
Baldwin Wallace and John Carroll universities will hold commencement ceremonies outdoors with COVID-19 protocols in place, honoring both the Class of 2021 and last year's graduates.

When John Carroll University’s graduating class of 2020 had to forgo in-person commencement ceremonies because Ohio was in the middle of a pandemic-related lockdown, the administration told those students, that “when the coast was clear,” they would get their ceremony.

And the university is making good on that promise.

Later this month, John Carroll will hold three in-person commencements May 20-23. One outdoor ceremony, to be held at Hamlin Quad, will be for the Class of 2020. Those graduates did have a virtual ceremony last year, but, according to university spokesman Mike Scanlan, the school owed them more.

Jenny Hamel
John Carroll University will hold three outdoor commencement ceremonies at the end of May to honor the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 in person. 

“We felt we owed it to them to welcome them back to do it right this time. So I know a lot of them are thrilled to come back,” Scanlan said. “Certainly some have moved on to bigger and better things and aren’t able to return. But we’ve also opened the window for them to return at any point in the next few years if they are back in Cleveland, that they can walk across the stage and ensure that they get that experience when they’re here in town.”

All three commencement ceremonies – a separate ceremony for undergraduates, graduate students and the Class of 2020 – will be held on campus, with social distancing protocols. All attendees must be masked and capacity will be limited, with students receiving only three guest tickets each, but as Scanlan said, the events are, at least “approaching normal.” 

“Our COVID-19 task force has been very involved in this process to ensure that we follow all the state mandates and all the advice of the local health agencies,” Scanlan said. “So we're not putting anyone at risk. We're doing it the right way and we hope that everybody has an enjoyable experience.”

With about 600 undergrads and their guests, the Class of 2021 will be the largest of the ceremonies. Family groups will be given assigned seating in one of two quads, with the main stage at the Hamlin Quad; for those seated in the spill-over quad, a screen will show a live shot of the main stage.

Scanlan, said one of the greatest values of a John Carroll education is how one handles overcoming obstacles – and “What bigger obstacle has there been than the pandemic?” he asked.

“So the opportunity to celebrate these graduates, I think for those of us on the staff and faculty, is going to be a real highlight of our careers here, knowing how much we've all been through,” Scanlan said. “And for the students, I can only imagine the excitement, the anticipation. Of course, they're preparing for the real world to.  This is an end, but really a huge beginning for them, and the opportunity for us all to get together in a safe way is going to be really special.” 

Baldwin Wallace plans
Baldwin Wallace graduates can’t shake hands – or reach out and spontaneously hug – university President Robert Helmer as they receive their diploma Saturday, May 7, but graduates will still hear their names called out as they take to the stage with their family and friends cheering them on.  

Crews have been busy preparing the stage and sound system for the three ceremonies to be held throughout the day, university spokesperson Shawn Salamone said. To allow for spacing, two ceremonies will be held for the Class of 2021’s undergraduates and graduate students combined and one will be held for the Class of 2020.

“It's a milestone for our students. They work so hard and imagine that day of holding up that diploma and having their family applaud them,” Salamone said. “So we fully recognize that what we did [last year] online was a virtual conferring of degrees, a very brief recorded and live ceremony with and calling out some of the honors online. It just is not the same as being there in that very important ceremony.”

Baldwin Wallace University
Baldwin Wallace University will hold three commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 7, at George Finnie Stadium.

All three graduation events will be held outdoors, at the university’s George Finnie Stadium, with COVID-19 protocols in place.

“Family groups of three need to be 6 feet apart in the stands and you have stickers on all the bleachers. You can only use every other one and the students will be spread out,” Salamone said. “We put a floor on our football stadium field and the students will march in and sit there 6 feet apart, everyone in masks.” 

It will be a long day for the university administration and staff, but one Salamone said, they are looking forward to.

“It'll be just one celebration after the other and we're very excited,” Salamone said.

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Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”