Graduates take the stage, receive degrees at Fall 2021 commencement ceremonies


President Bob Davies takes a selfie with a graduate at the morning commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 18 in McGuirk Arena.

Rachod Mildton didn't just cheer for his daughter Raiyana as she walked across the stage to receive her degree – he clapped and shouted for every single Fall 2021 graduate in the first ceremony of commencement day. 

"They have all done the work and it's been a long journey. Sometimes when all is said and done, you need someone to help celebrate with you," he said.

Thanks to the friends and family of graduates, there certainly was no shortage of celebration. 

1,319 students received degrees and certificates during the three commencement ceremonies on Dec. 18. Of those students, 869 received bachelor's degrees, 410 received master's degrees, 28 received doctoral degrees and 12 received either a specialist degree or a certificate.

"This is a tremendous moment," President Bob Davies said. "I'm so happy we were able to get together to celebrate it."

9 a.m. Ceremony

The first undergraduates to step on the stage were from the College of the Arts and Media, College of Education and Human Services and The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions. 

Despite frigid temperatures outside McGuirk Arena in the morning, graduates and their families wore smiles behind their masks and winter coats.

Davies made multiple speeches pointing out individual students and their families. He reminded the crowd of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on campus life throughout the past year-and-a-half saying those challenges have only made the graduates stronger. 

"You have not just survived a global pandemic," Davies said. "You have survived and thrived despite a global pandemic."

The morning ceremony also saw remarks from the Board of Trustees Chair Richard Studley and virtual remarks from Nathan Tallman. He encouraged students to think about both their past and futures with CMU.

"I encourage you to reflect on your past at CMU and think about your favorite professor, class, the lifelong friendships you made and how CMU will forever be a part of it," Tallman said. "Looking to your future, CMU has equipped you with ethical, practical and critical thinking tools."

1 p.m. Ceremony

A second ceremony for graduates of the College of Business Administration, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and the College of Science and Engineering was held in the afternoon. 

Once the graduates emerged from gates opposite the stage, audience members stood and clapped through Davies opening remarks and the national anthem. 

After opening speeches from Davies, Board of Trustees member Isaiah Oliver took the stage and gave his own remarks to the graduates. 

"This is truly a full-circle moment for me," Oliver said. "It feels like not so long ago, taking the next step in my journey after earning my CMU degree."

Oliver also challenged graduates to be prepared to work hard and change the world. He described diplomas as "more than just a piece of paper you hang on your wall, it's a symbol of everything you've put into this journey." 

5 p.m. Ceremony

Finally, graduate certificates, master's degrees, specialist degrees and doctoral degrees were awarded at the 5 p.m. ceremony.

While the evening ceremony had the smallest crowds of both graduates and supporters, the excitement did not dwindle. Graduate and doctorate students wore black robes – contrasting the maroon crowds from the first two ceremonies. 

Davies recognized more students and their families. However, he paid special attention to CMU's own Director of Residence Kathleen Gardner who worked toward her doctoral degree while managing the Office of Residence Life. 

"You are the epitome of leadership," Davies told Gardner. 

Tallman and Trustee Sharon Heath shared additional speeches with the graduate and doctoral students before a final singing of the Alma Mater. 

Davies encouraged each commencement crowd to "put there 'ding' in the universe" by helping their communities and the people around them. 

"I know that anything you set your mind to, anything you set your will to, anything you put your back into, it is possible for you," Davies said. "The question isn't when do you get back to normal, it's what can you do to be exceptional."