On the weekend of Nov. 19, the UT class of spring 2020, along with the fall class, was finally able to walk across the stage and formally graduate. Original graduation plans in the spring were disrupted due to the coronavirus outbreak.
During the ceremony, social distancing was observed as graduating students were seated apart from each other, and families were assigned seating in the stands to maintain distance with others. Masks were mandatory for all who attended the ceremony.
The general capacity at Thompson-Boling Arena was far lower than a normal graduation ceremony in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines. At no time before, during or after the graduation were guests permitted on the arena floor.
John Zomchick, vice provost at the University of Tennessee, opened his speech with a welcome to guests and a note about the absent Chancellor Donde Plowman.
“I know many of us feared that this day would never come. I am glad that we are here,” Zomchick said.
Zomchick extended his thanks to the students, faculty and staff at UT. Zomchick also extended greetings from Chancellor Plowman, who is currently in self-quarantine after coming in proximity to someone who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The ceremony was led with the Star-Spangled Banner, which was sung by student Adia Evans. Evans was joined with a small quartet of brass players as they performed the anthem through video.
Zomchick ended his speech by praising students for making it to this point during a time of immense change and uncertainty in the world.
“By being here today, you have shown that you have succeeded,” Zomchick said.
Others also spoke during the ceremony through video call.
Among those visiting the ceremony virtually included President of UT Systems Randy Boyd; Karmen Jones, SGA student body president; Erika Grant, doctor of psychology and John M. Brown, doctor of jurisprudence.
Jones chose to highlight the achievement of the students graduating during a time of pandemic, social justice movement and a chaotic election cycle, as this was a momentous feat in a year like no other.
After the commencement, graduates took the stage one at a time as they crossed and had a memorable photo taken. After a certain group of graduates had crossed the stage, a short pause would be taken to allow the families of the graduates to leave their seats.