COVID-19 was not enough to stop Taylor graduation.
With the original spring event being postponed due to the coronavirus crisis, administration worked day and night to ensure that the class of 2020 received the closure that every class deserves.
The 2020 Taylor commencement planning was nothing short of a logistical rollercoaster, yet a highlight of campus community.
After a summer of administrative meetings, brainstorming sessions and satisfying state government mandates, over 300 graduates were able to come together with their families — at a distance — to receive their long awaited diplomas on Saturday, Aug. 15. The event took place on the lawn between the Reade academic building and Euler Science Complex at 8 A.M.
With the 2020 commencement in the rearview mirror, feedback for the event was overwhelmingly positive.
“In a word, it was spectacular,” said Paige Cunningham, interim president. “This was the most prayed for commencement in Taylor history.”
The large outdoor venue allowed graduates, faculty, staff, families and friends to attend while maintaining the CDC-recommended, 6-foot distancing.
Administration followed other CDC guidelines by monitoring entrances and exits, and checking temperatures of every event attendee.
But one of the largest obstacles that administration faced in an outdoor setting was the weather.
Commencement used to always be held outside, with an indoor venue serving as the backup option in case of rain, Cunningham added. But no such reserve option was available for the 2020 event. The graduation ceremony would either be held outside, or not at all.
But come Aug. 15, weather was no longer a concern for administration.
“The weather couldn’t have been better,” said Skip Trudeau, vice president of student development. “It got a bit hot towards the end, but we couldn’t have asked for better weather.”
Sitting on a raised stage, with the sun beating down, dressed in full robes, was less than comfortable, Trudeau said, but it was still worth it.
Cunningham expressed similar thankfulness for the sunny weather, but also echoed Trudeau’s comments regarding the heat.
“Let’s just say I sent my robes to the dry cleaners the next day,” Cunningham said.
Both Cunningham and Trudeau said that there was little-to-no negative feedback from the attendees.
Similarly, Taylor found no pushback from government officials in planning the event.
“State officials said they loved the idea, and they really worked with us to make it happen,” said Cunningham.
A gathering inside an enclosed area — such as the traditional commencement venue, the Kesler Student Activities Center — would have broken the Indiana restrictions on large group gatherings.
Even after logistics and planning were all sorted out, Taylor still worked to make Aug. 15 a special day for recent graduates.
“It was fantastic,” said Jeff Wallace, chief law enforcement officer. “We all wanted this for the students. Every conversation I’ve ever been in, we really want this. What we want for them is what’s best for them, given the circumstances we’re living in right now.”
Wallace continued by saying that commencement is more than just a day of celebration, but also a missional “send-off” for Taylor graduates.
Commencement, and the 2020 school year, were not going to be cancelled due to COVID-19, Wallace added. But it would take a community effort to stay safe in the midst of the pandemic.
“Whatever it takes, let’s do this, and do it right, and do it well and care for each other well.” Wallace said. “That was the mindset for commencement. Someday, when corona is gone, we’re still going to need to care for eachother, and this is a pretty poignant reminder of that.”