The Newman University 2021 Spring Commencement will be especially exciting for two reasons: It’s being held in person, following a 2020 online event, and it is the first commencement hosted in Hartman Arena.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions and arena capacity, two graduation ceremonies will be held Friday, May 7.
The first will be at 10 a.m. for the School of Business and the School of Education and Social Work. The second ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. for the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Catholic Studies and the School of Nursing and Allied Health.
Both ceremonies will include undergraduate and graduate students.
The traditional Baccalaureate Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 6.
This traditional religious ceremony honors all Newman University graduates and includes a Catholic Mass with special music and readings. Selected graduates will share reflections about their time at Newman as well.
According to Lori Gibbon, Newman University registrar, approximately 475 to 500 students will graduate this academic year.
“I think the commencement in and of itself will be a highlight,” she said. “We did an incredible job last year of providing a virtual commencement ceremony, but nothing compares to being in person. I look forward to seeing our graduates process across the stage and be recognized for all of their dedication, hard work and accomplishments.”
The commencement speaker will be Professor of Biology Sarah Evans, Ph.D., who received the 2020 Faculty Teaching Excellence Award — an honor presented to a full-time faculty member who has demonstrated an innovative or dynamic approach to courses, course revisions and teaching techniques.
Wichita Diocese Bishop Carl A. Kemme will receive an honorary doctorate degree from Newman during this year’s commencement. His appointment as the 11th bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, was announced in February 2014 by Pope Francis.
He was ordained to the fullness of the priesthood in May 2014 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. Kemme currently serves on the Newman University Board of Trustees.
The 2021 Leona J. and Harvey J. Ablah Award winners will also be announced as part of commencement.
This highly anticipated award is presented to one female and one male student who exemplify the mission and spirit of Newman University and who show great promise to make a strong and positive contribution to society. The award was established by Fran and Geri (Ablah) Jabara to honor the memory of Geri’s parents, Harvey J. and Leona J. Ablah, and perpetuate their vision of entrepreneurism and the American dream.
“It is always a special moment to see who is honored with these awards,” said Laura Hartley, director of alumni and campus events. “This year we are just so excited to be doing an in-person commencement, and while it will be scaled back and follow COVID-19 mitigation protocols, being able to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of these graduating students will be a treat.”