Franciscan University of Steubenville’s commencement ceremonies will now be held mid-August, the university announced yesterday.
The university announced April 7 that it will have a baccalaureate Mass and graduation Aug. 14-15. Commencement exercises were originally scheduled for May 8-9, but whether they would still happen as planned was uncertain when campus was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now commencement will be shortly before the start of fall semester, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 25.
The Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR, wrote in his email announcing the new date for commencement, “There was no way I was going to let my first graduating class leave without the appropriate send-off celebration, prayer, and goodbye.”
In an email interview, Pivonka said that a few dates were considered for commencement. He hopes that the already-scheduled Steubenville conferences can still happen, so the chosen date preferably needed to not conflict with those. “We polled about 100 seniors giving a few dates; the August day was overwhelmingly preferred,” said Pivonka.
“Having just chosen the dates, we are now trying to work out the details and what exactly it will look like,” said Pivonka. “We don’t know if things will be opened up by then but are certainly praying that they will be.”
Many students had mixed feelings about the announcement.
Senior Cindy Wolfe said, “I am excited but still hesitant considering that this health crisis could still be a problem even so far in the future. It might also be difficult for those of us seniors who have jobs at that point to make it.”
Other students were mainly relieved that the ceremony was postponed instead of cancelled.
Senior Katie Hugo explained, “This way, we’ll have some sort of goodbye to our fellow seniors.”
Senior Naomi Coutinho was also glad commencement was not cancelled. “It was kind of the last thing I was holding on to since we lost the rest of our semester on campus,” she said. “I hope all my classmates can make it because I can’t wait to see everyone again and celebrate the class of 2020.”
While the university decides what this unprecedented graduation will look like, a group of students has already decided how it wants commencement weekend to look. Senior Jade Angelicamaria and other Franciscan students are putting on “City of Stars,” a free dance for seniors and juniors the same weekend as commencement.
“We just want to see (people) again and have closure. The goal has always been to spread hope faster than the virus,” said Angelicamaria.
Angelicamaria said that she and her team hope to make the night about memories. She said, “If possible, we’d love to share your own pictures from your time at Franciscan and hang them up with the lanterns as part of the main décor.”
Angelicamaria added, “The dance is not meant to officially replace the original spring formal. … I hope anyone involved with the original spring formal plans does not feel dismissed.”
The dance planning is still in progress and more details can be found by following @fus2020formal on Instagram or on the City of Stars Facebook event.
With so many factors still up in the air, reactions across the board have been hopeful. In the email interview, Pivonka wrote, “I am just looking forward to having any many seniors as possible return to campus for the Baccalaureate Mass and Graduation. I am excited that we will be able to get together in order to celebrate and perhaps have proper a goodbye.”