MURRAY – After no spring ceremony last year and having to go completely virtual for graduation last fall, Murray State University officials say they are excited to bring back in-person commencement this weekend.

The spring 2020 commencement ceremonies were canceled last May because of COVID-19, and this Friday and Saturday will mark the first time Murray State has held an in-person commencement ceremony since December 2019. The event will recognize May and August 2021 graduates, as well as 2020 graduates.

One ceremony will be held Friday, and three will be held on Saturday in the CFSB Center. All events will be held with mask and social distancing requirements and all other health and safety protocols in place. The ceremony for masters, specialist and doctoral graduates will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, May 7, and undergraduate ceremonies will take place at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, May 8.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tim Todd said that after a year-and-a-half of no large events like commencement on campus, university officials are very excited to finally be able to welcome back families of graduates.

“We’ve done some athletic events on a smaller scale, but commencement is the most important event we do, so we’re proud we’re going to have four of them and we’re proud we’re going to have them inside,” Todd said. “All the safety protocols are going to be in place. Some universities are doing one big commencement at a football stadium, and we could have done that – we could have put 1600 seats all across the field from the 10-yard line south to the 10-yard line north, but one bolt of lightning and you’re done and everybody’s got to leave.

“There’s no rain plan for that kind of crowd because you couldn’t move that many into the CFSB Center, so several of us got together, including the president, and we just decided our students and families deserve better than that, so we’re going to do four ceremonies.”

Even with the pandemic to take into account, four ceremonies means a lot of logistical challenges, Todd said. He thanked University Registrar Tracy Roberts, Assistant Registrar Wendy Longworth and Mary Ann Gardner with the Academic Affairs office for doing the bulk of the planning for the events.

“With each of the four ceremonies, you’ve still got to have Public Safety there, you’ve still got to have an ambulance on call, you’ve still got to have all of the workers there,” Todd said. “You’re going to have fewer people attend and fewer graduates per ceremony in order to do this, but all the names are going to be called because that’s very important to graduates and their families. For 300 per ceremony, we think we can do those ceremonies in about 75-90 minutes, and then we’ll have to clean the facility. So the facilities crew the university uses will come in after we get everybody out, and that takes about an hour, which gives us about a 30-minute cushion (between Saturday ceremonies).”

Todd said it’s no surprise that families are eager to attend commencement ceremonies again, but if that was immediately proven when the dates and times were officially announced and families were encourage to reserve their seats.

“Within about 35-40 minutes of (the ceremonies) going public and emails being sent to students (telling them) this is how it’s going to work and it’s first-come, first-served, so sign up for the ceremony you want, both the 11 o’clock and 2 o’clock ceremonies on Saturday were at capacity,” Todd said. “That tells you students and families have really been yearning for this and really want it to happen, so we’re pleased we’re going to be able to pull it off.”

Information on the spring commencement ceremonies is available at https://murraystate.edu/commencement/. For those who can’t make it to the ceremonies, they may be viewed live at https://www.murraystate.edu/Info/streaming.aspx.