Fort Lewis College hosted its first in-person commencement in a year with multiple outdoor ceremonies celebrating nearly 430 graduating seniors. With a backdrop of the La Plata Mountains and a mix of blue and blustery skies, FLC’s stadium filled up with raucous applause and heartfelt remarks from speakers.
President Tom Stritikus reflected that while every commencement is special, this year’s in-person ceremonies felt especially significant and hopeful.
"In a year filled with many personal and global challenges, watching you pursue your passions, talking to you about your future direction, and playing a small part in your accomplishments was the best medicine for a year that could have gotten the best of us."
“In a year filled with many personal and global challenges, watching you pursue your passions, talking to you about your future direction, and playing a small part in your accomplishments was the best medicine for a year that could have gotten the best of us,” he said. “On this day, surrounded by your family and your mentors, we simply say how proud we are of you and how honored we are to watch you persevere.”
While classes were held in person for the 2020-21 academic year, students, faculty, and staff were faced with unprecedented challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic: masks, random COVID-19 testing, desks and chairs spaced apart, limited in-person interactions, and daily symptom tracking. Spring Commencement was one of the rewards for keeping up with these mitigation efforts.
“Look at us now, graduating college despite the fact there is a worldwide pandemic going on,” said Carson Ingram, student body president. “Despite every obstacle thrown at us, we came out on top. We get to walk proudly, basking in our momentous achievement. We didn’t let this new world we live in stop us from doing what we have spent so much of our lives trying to achieve.”
Seven small commencement ceremonies took place over two days on Dennison Memorial Field. About 60 graduates were recognized during each ceremony with some friends and families seated in the audience. The stadium guest allowance was limited but other supporters of graduating seniors were able to tune in to a live-stream on Facebook—and some honked and cheered from the parking lot.
President Stritikus, Provost Cheryl Nixon, student body President Carson Ingram, student body Vice President Sophie Schwartz, and faculty commencement speakers addressed the graduates. Multiple speeches touched on persevering through COVID-19, but what imbued each ceremony with triumph was the acknowledgment of how much growth, learning, setbacks, and successes seniors experienced in their time at FLC.
“I hope for each of the graduates here today that higher education really was the learning experience you hoped it would be, that you made lifelong friends in your time here, and I hope that you’ll have numerous doors of opportunity open up for your future as this experience comes to a close,” Schwartz said. “But most of all, I hope college has been a humbling experience for you too. I hope you’ve come face-to-face with the hard reality that many of our fundamental beliefs and assumptions that shape our values and form the basis of what we think we know are probably flawed or at least deserve to be challenged and subject to a healthy amount of critical thought. I found that the higher education classroom wasn’t always the most intellectually comfortable place for me, but growth and evolution of your own assumptions, your own ideas, and your pursuit of truth and knowledge can’t be done perfectly comfortably.”
Spring 2021 graduates will be receiving Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Master of Arts in Education degrees and certificates in Pre-Health, Geographic Information System, and Digital Marketing.