The smiles behind the masks were wide as Concordia College celebrated December graduates with a 2020-style walk-through event on December 12th. Each graduate had the opportunity to hear their name called, pose with the president, and move their tassel from right to left before receiving a gift bag on their way out. May 2020 graduates were also invited to participate. The warmth and pride in the room belied the distanced format, creating a notably personalized commencement experience.
In all, 80 of Concordia’s 574 December graduates took part in the day-long event. Each had been given a time slot and the opportunity to bring up to four guests. All faced temperature checks and submitted health assessment forms before entry. President and Mrs. Nunes joined Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Rachel Eells and a skeleton production crew to receive the graduates as they moved through Schoenfeld Gym.
A livestream of the day was posted to the College’s website with recorded speeches and other celebratory content. In a hope-filled video address, President Nunes charged the graduates to “Follow your star! Make your music! Move and shake the world with your dreams and your vocation and your love and your good works!” Student Representatives Abraham Lamboy and Jennifer Grant recorded their own inspiring messages. The commencement address was recorded by Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, who described how as an immigrant, she was often told she didn’t “look the part.” Her message to graduates? “Tell them this is what the part looks like…You deserve to be here. You’ve earned this moment. And even if it looks a little different than you thought it would, it’s truly something to celebrate. Now go out and build a better world.”
Before the first graduate arrived, President Nunes bestowed the Servant of Christ Award on Dr. David J. Gentner, President of Wartburg and Wartburg Foundation in Mount Vernon, New York. Concordia’s Servant of Christ award is given to people who use their unique and God-given gifts in the service of others. Dr. Gentner has a gift for caring, and has dedicated his career to the care and well-being of older adults, expanding Wartburg’s reach with a state-of-the-art rehab center, adult day services center, and affordable housing facility. The Council for Creative Aging and Lifelong Learning, which Concordia Conservatory is proud to partner with, provides seniors with opportunities for meaningful self-expression through the arts.