PORTLAND, Maine — The University of Southern Maine will observe its 140th Commencement with its first-ever online celebration due to limitations presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
The celebration will feature a video featuring recognition for every graduate, as well as remarks by a student speaker, the university president and two honorary degree recipients.
The video will begin Saturday, May 9, at 9 a.m., the same day and time originally planned for the in-person ceremony, and will include individual recognition of each USM graduate.
All University of Maine System schools cancelled their in-person commencement ceremonies due to COVID-19. Traditionally, USM’s ceremony is held at Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena and, according to school officials, draws an audience of more than 5,000 family and friends. School officials said the virtual ceremony is designed to capture the spirit of that occasion.
“The most joyous day on the USM calendar is Commencement Day,” USM President Glenn Cummings said. “It’s a time for us to celebrate the extraordinary intellectual growth and determination that are at the heart of our university. It is a chance for new graduates to honor the sacrifice of family and loved ones, to acknowledge their own achievement and to reflect on their journey from the perspective of this milestone. This Commencement Day will be like no other in the history of the University.”
The university said plans have also begun for an in-person ceremony to be held Saturday, October 3, during USM’s annual homecoming weekend. The university said details will be forthcoming.
Participants in the virtual celebration include student speaker Leyla Hashi, a Communication major from Portland, USM President Glenn Cummings, Provost Jeannine Uzzi and honorary degree recipients Dr. David Howes, president and CEO of Martin's Point, and Dr. Edison Liu, president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory. Senior Music Performance major Nicole Ponte, of South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, will sing the National Anthem.
Student Speaker Leyla Hashi said she is honored and humbled to give the speech.
“In September, we all thought it was going to be like any other school year,” Hashi said. “Then, so much changed, I really want my speech to remind the Class of 2020 that there's still such a big world out there. Within that big world lies opportunities that are just waiting to be executed. Do not let these circumstances cloud your opportunities to come.”
Those wishing to watch the virtual ceremony are encouraged to visit USM’s commencement website.