Two hundred and three students graduated from the University of Maine at Presque Isle on Saturday, May 8, during the University’s Virtual Commencement Ceremony—held to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2021 despite a public health situation that still precludes large, in-person gatherings. This is only the second time in UMPI’s history that a commencement has been held virtually. During the 112th Commencement ceremony, UMPI President Raymond Rice conferred degrees for the 2020-2021 academic year upon this year’s graduating seniors, who had the opportunity to participate in the ceremony via UMPI’s Youtube channel.
“Though we weren’t able to be together in person for Commencement this year, having an alternate way to gather together with members of campus, family, and friends and recognize the members of our Class of 2021 was incredibly important and we’re very grateful to all of those who helped us to make our virtual event happen,” President Rice said. “We are very proud of our graduating seniors, and commend them for their hard work and perseverance, especially during a very difficult last year and a half of their college experience. We have no doubt that those qualities will serve them well in their future endeavors.”
Kris Doody, President and CEO of Cary Medical Center and Pines Health Services, addressed the graduates as this year’s commencement speaker. Doody also served as this year’s honorary degree recipient. She and Larry M. Shaw, President and CEO of MMG Insurance who served as last year’s commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient, formally received their Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees and were hooded during the ceremony. Deborah MacCallum Klane, member of the Class of 2021, served as this year’s Student Commencement Speaker.
During the 2021 commencement ceremony, University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy and James Erwin, Chair of the UMS Board of Trustees, delivered greetings. As well, Stephen Richard, UMPI Board of Visitors Chair; Stacey Emery, UMPI Faculty Assembly Chair; and Craig Cormier, UMPI Alumni Association President, offered remarks on behalf of each organization.
President Rice led the presentation of degrees, which was accompanied by a slideshow featuring each of the graduates, as well as photos and messages they submitted. He noted UMPI’s tradition of pinning all marching graduates with a special symbol of campus–a lapel pin depicting a snowy owl with its wings outstretched in flight—and explained since that couldn’t happen in-person, graduates would be receiving their wings pins in the mail. Following the conferral of degrees, there were two onscreen video responses: a Zoom room full of faculty and staff offering applause and a surprise “fly over” of faculty and staff cheering from the main campus walkway.
President Rice also shared with graduating seniors that they would receive a special gift in the mail this summer, in addition to their wings pins, diplomas, and diploma covers: “Without spoiling the surprise, we’d just say that this gift is meant to help you on the next step of your journey,” he said.
The event culminated in a distance-friendly tossing of the caps, complete with video tribute to the Class of 2021, a countdown, and the official tossing. Members of the Class of 2021 were encouraged to don their regalia at home and take part in the tradition.
“We commend the Class of 2021 for their focus and determination in achieving their college goals,” President Rice said. “Whether it’s been a traditional degree path, a return to school after a long time away, or a brand new start later in life, our graduates have accomplished so much during their time with us and we couldn’t be more proud.”
A website dedicated to this virtual commencement has been established at www.umpi.edu/virtual-graduation. On this site, visitors can view the Commencement proceedings in their entirety, click in to a specific speech, and peruse the official Commencement program. A gallery of social media posts connected with UMPI’s 2021 graduation is also featured.
In lieu of a reception, a score of post-graduation celebrations were held. University faculty, staff, and the Alumni Association provided opportunities for graduates to take part in virtual gatherings via Zoom video after the ceremony. These gatherings allowed small groups to come together, share the excitement of the day with each other, and celebrate this year’s graduates.
Understanding, however, that this event cannot replace a live graduation experience, the University is providing two other opportunities for the Class of 2021. There will be a Live Celebratory Event for 2021 and 2020 graduates during Homecoming Weekend in September, and graduates are also invited to march in UMPI’s 2022 Commencement Exercises. All three classes of graduates will be recognized and honored in May 2022.