GaBrina Cornelius surprised reaction
Almost 500 spring and summer graduates participated in a series of six ceremonies held in Ritsche Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Graduates in their caps and gowns streamed through the sidewalks of the once quiet campus Friday as they arrived to celebrate their graduation physically-distanced commencement ceremonies that included plenty of applause and cheers.
The six ceremonies drew in graduates from all of the colleges and schools and was a special time for students and their families and friends.
The 7:30 p.m. ceremony was extra special for GaBrina Cornelious, a criminal justice master’s candidate, who was surprised on stage by her father, Sgt. 1st Class Gary Cornelious, who she hadn’t seen since Thanksgiving due to COVID-19 and his military service. Sgt. Cornelious missed her undergraduate ceremony in 2017 when she graduated with her bachelor’s degree, but was able to get a 48-hour leave to see her cross the stage on Friday.
The ceremonies were capped at 250 for each event with graduates limited to two guests each. With masks required, and physical distancing observed, the ceremony reflected the continued realities of graduating during COVID-19.
Each 45-minute ceremony began with faculty leading in the graduates into the auditorium to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance”.
Vice President Jason Woods delivered opening and closing remarks. Provost Dan Gregory welcomed the class and presented a video of messages submitted by the graduates. President Robbyn Wacker addressed the graduates at each of the day’s ceremonies.
She spoke about how delighted she was to finally be able to celebrate with the graduates and their family and friends.
She invited graduates to reflect back on their educational journey prior to spring break and all they experienced during their education prior.
“Semester after semester, day after day, you successfully faced the unknown and whatever came your way,” Wacker said.
That resolve was tested in March, when the nation responded to the arrival of COVID-19 and St. Cloud State moved classes online.
“With a lot of caring faculty, staff, friends and family behind you, you prevailed and adapted, you figured out how to finish your studies in a remote format and how to live through weeks of staying home … you could have let this derail you, but you didn’t.” Wacker said. “Do not underestimate the extent to which you had to adapt and what you have accomplished.”
Not only did the graduating class need to transition online to finish their degrees, they also witnessed the death of George Floyd as horrific and heart-wrenching reminder that the nation still has much to accomplish to fulfill its pledge for “liberty and justice for all,” she said.
“Today, I see before me a group of graduates are just what the world needs to help bring together the changes we need to not only rebuild the economy but to reimagine our cultural and socio-economic structures and to commit to ‘really seeing each other’ so we can create a more equitable future for us all,” she said.
After completing her speech, President Wacker invited the graduates up to the stage to walk across and hold up their diploma cover, and presented the graduates to their families and friends watching in the auditorium and through a live stream link.
Following the recessional, graduates spread across campus to take physically-distanced photos in their cap and gown and staff members diligently cleaned the auditorium to prepare for the next ceremony.
“Go out there today and celebrate,” Wacker told each set of graduates. “Always remember that you are the St. Cloud State University Class of 2020, the class that has the right to say with confidence — bring it on!”
See the Ceremonies
- 9 a.m. – University College and College of Liberal Arts
- 11 a.m. – College of Liberal Arts and School of Health and Human Services
- 1 p.m. – School of Health and Human Services and Herberger School of Business
- 3 p.m. – Herberger School of Business and College of Science and Engineering
- 5 p.m. – College of Science and Engineering
- 7 p.m. – School of Education and School of Public Affairs