Photo Courtesy of Sower Staff
By Elisha Meyer
The wait was over Saturday for more than 130 students at Concordia University Nebraska who received their diplomas during a graduation ceremony at Walz Arena.
Graduation originally was scheduled for May 9, but restrictions on travel and large gatherings due to the novel coronavirus pandemic prevented the ceremony from taking place.
Interm President Russ Sommerfeld said the belated graduation was a day of both happiness and caution.
“Today’s commencement will be filled with joy and celebration,” he said. “It will also be remembered for the unique global pandemic time within which it is occurring.”
The university followed CDC guidance and required everyone in attendance, including graduates, to wear face masks and maintain a six-foot distance from non-family members. Hand sanitizing stations also were available in the arena.
An alternative to the normal congratulatory handshake was used as students received their diplomas. Sommerfeld placed his right hand over his heart for each student to symbolize the Christ-like love shared with them in the Concordia community. Then both student and president bowed to each other to symbolize Concordia’s ongoing prayers for each graduate and vice versa.
Campus pastor Ryan Mathias, commencement speaker for this year’s graduating class, said the pandemic would not define the graduating class.
“I think we have a tendency to call the worst things to mind,” Mathias said, “but I don’t think you came to graduation for that. You’ve come to call to mind the greater things, the better things.”
Dr. Kristin Nugent received the 2020 Outstanding Teaching Award. Nugent had volunteered to help organize the ceremony, unaware that she would later be front stage to receive an award of recognition from the student body.
“I will never forget this,” she said. “You (my education students) are so dear to my heart.”
Jalla Bolay, outgoing Student Senate president, offered hope to his fellow graduates. “Whenever there is a battle between good and evil, good always wins,” Bolay said. “So, my friends, there is hope. The future is bright and promising.“
Sommerfeld concluded the ceremony by charging students to go out into the world and use their new talents to the best of their abilities, but to always do so in God’s name.
“As stewards of God’s bountiful blessings, I wish you the blessings and guidance of God as you carry out your responsibilities,” he said.