Thursday, September 24, 2020
To: The Kettering University Community
Subject: October 2020 Commencement
I hope this finds you and yours well, safe, and healthy.
For our students and their families, Commencement is the culminating event of their University experience. The successful completion of a Kettering degree is an enormous accomplishment, worthy of celebration and public acknowledgement. Providing a special experience at Commencement for our graduates and those special to them is important to us.
COVID-19 has made planning a ceremony for this year’s graduating class a challenge. We did not wish to simply virtualize our Commencement, believing this would not adequately express the pride that we have in our graduates nor would it create the sense of community that is so much at the heart of Kettering. So earlier this year, we moved our June 2020 Commencement to October 10 and have been planning since then to host a full commencement ceremony. That planning is complete and has been guided by our desire to host an event that is safe for all participants while also being consistent with any guidance or direction that we have received from state and local officials relating to the pandemic.
Unfortunately, while we have been planning our event, that guidance has been evolving. Under revised guidance we received this week, we are no longer permitted to convene an outside assembly of sufficient size to make holding the ceremony we had planned for October 10 feasible.
We are now limited to outdoor academic assemblies of no more than 100 persons, irrespective of the protective measures that we may take, or the size of the venue in which we hold the ceremony (for us, Atwood Stadium with its native 11,000-seat capacity, reduced to 2000 seats with provisions for full social distancing).
Nonetheless, we have explored a number of scenarios that might permit us to move forward with our plans, including options for holding multiple (25+) small commencement ceremonies at multiple locations over several days. Ultimately, under the circumstances, none of these alternate scenarios turned out to appear to be workable for us or our guests.
In the end, I believe it is now required that we cancel our Commencement planned for October 10 as well as the Academic Awards ceremony scheduled for the evening before.
I understand the difficulty this represents for our participating graduates and families. I also understand the frustration you feel at the sense of this event as a moving target, and we share that frustration with you. There is simply no way for us to anticipate in advance how we might be required to respond as the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved.
You may also wonder why we simply didn’t cancel Commencement earlier in the year, avoiding this possibility altogether. We did not because we care deeply for our students, and we wanted, if it was at all possible, to provide for them an experience worthy of their achievement.
All graduates who have not already received their diplomas may expect to receive them in the mail over the next few weeks.
We will begin planning now for a Commencement Weekend in June of 2021, when we will welcome home our 2020 graduates and host a commencement celebration (or two ceremonies if needed) for both our 2020 and 2021 graduating classes. During this weekend celebration, we will also host a full honors banquet celebrating our 2020 and 2021 honorees as well as a “mini-homecoming” for our class of 2020.
I appreciate your understanding and share your unhappiness at this turn of events. We are and remain committed to celebrating Commencement for our class of 2020 and look forward to doing so in the future. The University will keep you, our Class of 2020 graduates and your families informed as we move forward.
Dr. Robert K. McMahan
President and Professor of Physics