Tennessee Tech graduates had May 9 marked on their calendar as a day to celebrate the accomplishment of earning a degree. But COVID 19 altered that for the time being.
Hearing their family erupt in cheers when their name was called while walking across the stage to shake hands with President Phil Oldham and grab a diploma cover didn’t happen for the Class of 2020 on Saturday. But it will.
The Spring 2020 commencement ceremony will occur on Saturday, Aug. 8, in the Hooper Eblen Center.
There will be three ceremonies that day, allowing students receiving undergraduate degrees in Spring and Summer 2020 to invite family and friends while still allowing for social distancing. A ceremony honoring master’s degree and doctoral students will be held Friday evening, Aug. 7.
“It’s exciting,” said Tech graduate Amanda Phy, who majored in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. “I’m glad they are going to still do it. I was afraid that they weren’t going to have one at all. I’m glad they are going to have one sooner than later.”
Phy, the daughter of David Phy and Lisa Langford, who graduated from Cookeville High in 2018, had her own commencement ceremony on Saturday with family and friends at her home in Cookeville.
“It was probably different than most people,” said Langford about the ceremony. “We set our front yard up with signs asking people to honk for her. We called her name out and handed her a mock degree just like a regular graduation.”
Part of Phy’s ceremony was watching a video celebration from the university which included messages from President Oldham, Governor Bill Lee, Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter and Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton.
“I encourage you to celebrate your degree, your friendships and your future today and each day for the rest of your life,” said President Oldham in the video. “Your time here has been filled with experiences that have prepared you for a lifetime of success. However, there is no denying you have lost moments and chances to make memories this semester.”
Tech students had an extended spring break and then all classes were moved online for the rest of the semester because of COVID 19, causing commencement to be postponed.
“You responded with resolve, tenacity, a lot of common sense, effort and patience despite your fears and concerns,” continued Oldham. “Remember your time at Tech not by what you have lost, but by what you have gained and what you have accomplished. And remember, those challenges have shaped you into bold, fearless and confident graduates.”
The video included slides of graduates, special moments during their time at Tech, and concluded with a special message from Tech alum Jake Hoot, the winner of season 17 of The Voice.
“I know with all the COVID stuff and quarantine going on, you may not have been able to celebrate,” said Hoot. “But, it doesn’t take away from the importance of your huge accomplishment.”
Hoot wrapped up the video with an acoustic performance of his hit song “Tennessee Strong” he wrote and dedicated to the victims of the tornado that struck Putnam County, killing 19 people.
“I thought the video was pretty cool,” said Phy. “The Jake Hoot part at the end was pretty cool. It was also fun to watch as the names scrolled across the screen.”
More details of the Aug. 8 commencement, including the schedule of colleges and times, will be announced in early June. Spring 2020 graduates can also choose to attend the December 2020 or May 2021 commencement by request.
To watch the special video celebration go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XQVVAHDYu8&feature=youtu.be.