MONMOUTH, ILLINOIS (May 12, 2020) — Monmouth College's annual Commencement ceremony will not be what its graduating seniors envisioned when they matriculated on the Wallace Hall Plaza in August of 2016.

But it will be historic and memorable nonetheless, as the College will hold its 163rd annual Commencement Exercises on May 17 as part of a virtual Commencement weekend. The virtual Commencement ceremony — including the reading of each graduate's name by President Clarence R Wyatt and Dean Mark Willhardt — will be posted at noon, May 17, to monmouthcollege.edu/commencement20.

An on-campus ceremony for the College's Class of 2020 is planned for September 19. The ceremony, which is being held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will still feature the reading of each graduate's name, as well as a keynote address by the Commencement speaker, social entrepreneur Sam Vaghar. Executive director of the Boston-based Millennium Campus Network, Vaghar co-founded the global non-profit organization with a mission to bolster students' civic engagement to tackle poverty, discrimination, and climate-change. "Sam is an impressive young person," said Wyatt. "He has identified and is pursuing a cause that mirrors Monmouth College's goals of empowering young people to see and realize the possibilities before them, and to create positive change in all aspects of their lives of work, service, and leadership. He is a compelling speaker, and I know that he will provide an inspiring message to our students and community."

Vaghar acknowledged that since he was invited to give the Commencement address, "so much has changed in a very short amount of time" due to the pandemic. But one thing that hasn't changed is the commitment he plans to make to the Monmouth College community.

"I am really humbled to be able to join with this community," he said. "For me, this isn't a one-off thing. I don't just want to come on virtually or show up on campus once. I'm really excited to build together, and I want to be a resource however I can." Hadley Smithhisler ('20) of Valley City, North Dakota, the College's 2019 Student Laureate of the Lincoln Academy, will also address the Class of 2020. The Baccalaureate ceremony — normally held the day before Commencement — will be held this year as part of the Commencement exercises on May 17. "We've chosen the most memorable and symbolic moments of both Commencement and Baccalaureate ceremony to highlight," said Dean of the Chapel the Rev Dr Teri Ott, "including the Baccalaureate closer that always makes us cry: Kasha Appleton ('20 of Chicago) will lead the Senior Prayer followed by our Chorale singing 'A Flame of White and Crimson.' Be sure to stay tuned in until the end!" For the past two months, Monmouth's communications team has produced other virtual ceremonies.

"Our College videographers have pulled together some beautiful end-of-the-year ceremonies, including Honors Convocation and the Highlander Awards," said Ott. "I know our combined Baccalaureate/Commencement virtual ceremony will also be beautiful."

Wyatt said graduates will have the opportunity to do much more than simply sit by their screens or computer monitors. "We have encouraged graduates and their family members to share pictures and video clips from their home celebrations with us throughout the weekend of May 16-17," he said. "Our communications staff will work to share them on the College's website and social media platforms." The virtual Senior Gala will be posted at 5PM, May 16. A live Senior Toast will be held on Facebook Live on the Monmouth Facebook page (facebook.com/monmouthcollege) at 6:10PM, May 16. The Honor Walk — in which seniors present a specially-minted commemorative coin to honor a family member, faculty or staff member, or friend who provided inspiration, motivation, and support during their Monmouth career — will be celebrated throughout graduation week on Monmouth's social-media channels. It is normally held on the Saturday afternoon before Commencement.

Seniors are usually required to make a donation to the senior-class gift to participate in the Honor Walk. But for this year, a donor made a gift on behalf of every graduating senior so that the entire class can participate in the Honor Walk. Wyatt said graduates can also look for a special Commencement care package, which will be mailed to their homes and is scheduled to arrive before the May 16-17 weekend. "Commencement Weekend is one of Lobie's and my favorite events at Monmouth College," said Wyatt. "We wish we could celebrate Commencement 2020 with our graduates on campus, as scheduled, but we look forward to seeing them and their family members and friends at our Sept. 19 on-campus ceremony." Diplomas will be mailed to graduates' homes beginning the week of May 18.

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