OHIO NORTHERN PHARMACY students practice good social distancing as they paint the Spirit Rock with a message. (ONU Facebook page)

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Staff Writer

Normally, May is the season for celebrating with proud parents, saying good-bye to dear college friends and mentors, then starting off on the journey into the outside world. Unable to hold commencement face to face this spring, the University of Findlay and Ohio Northern University are both creating online celebrations designed to ensure graduates feel recognized and special.

The University of Findlay’s “virtual celebration” will include a digital commencement program listing each graduate’s name; a message from President Katherine Fell, as well as messages from faculty and alumni; and a “first-person view” of the Griffith Memorial Arch Ceremony.

The school has also created a social media movement, #dearOilergrad2020, for alumni to share advice and show support for the 2020 class. A montage video of encouragement, inspiration and motivation will be featured in place of the traditional commencement speaker.

Darin Fields, vice president for academic affairs, said UF does plan to hold an in-person ceremony on campus, but does not know when that will be possible.

The university is creating a website to honor May graduates. Graduates have been asked to record a short video reflecting on their favorite memories at UF. Parents, too, have been asked to create videos of congratulations, and Fields said this has proven especially popular. He said he has seen some of the student video contributions, and it was “heartwarming” to hear their positive memories of their time at the university.

Fields said the website is the university’s way of saying, “We recognize you and we are proud of you.” It is likely to be ready in mid-May.

A slideshow of images will depict campus events over the past four or five years. Each of the college deans, or their designee, will read the names of the graduates.

UF’s commencement was originally scheduled for May 2.

Fields said the students are entering a very different world than the one they thought they’d be heading into after graduation, but they are very well equipped to handle it.

“We wish them the very best out in the world,” he said.

Ohio Northern University will hold a “virtual degree conferral ceremony,” which will be posted on Facebook at 1 p.m. Sunday at www.facebook.com/OhioNorthern/.

This is the date commencement ceremonies were originally scheduled for students in the ONU Raabe College of Pharmacy and undergraduate colleges, as well as the master of science in accounting program. The Pettit College of Law ceremony was scheduled for May 17.

ONU President Daniel DiBiasio will speak, and provost/vice president for academic affairs Maria Cronley and the college deans will confer the degrees. The virtual event will also include other features of the traditional ONU commencement ceremony, such as the singing of the national anthem and alma mater, as well as a closing benediction and photo images of members of the Class of 2020 during their time at ONU.

“This year’s class has shown great resilience and courage in how well they have dealt with these difficult and unusual circumstances during their last college term,” DiBiasio said in a press release. “These traits will serve them well in their future endeavors.”

In an interview with The Courier, DiBiasio said the university is “fervently hoping” it can hold a “full-blown” in-person ceremony down the line. But, he said, ONU “could not let the semester pass” without doing something to mark the occasion now, in May.

DiBiasio will speak, and the university’s chaplain will give an invocation. Degrees will be conferred upon each of the five colleges as a group, rather than calling out individual names. The University Singers will — “alone, together” — sing the university hymn. And there will be a “photographic collage” of many of the graduates.

DiBiasio said as he was preparing his remarks for the event, he especially wants to let graduates know they have “risen to the challenges of this semester.”

And, he said, he wants to recognize that graduation is an important occasion and “they’ve achieved something very special.”

Bluffton University plans to hold an in-person commencement on July 18, to be livestreamed for family and friends.

Owens Community College has invited this spring’s graduates to join in the fall commencement, scheduled for Dec. 18.

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