Behind the curtain: making commencement 2022

May 12, 2022
Commencement 2022 at Hartman Arena

Many hands make light work, and in the case of Newman University Commencement, the sparkling, ceremonious product is the result of several dedicated staff, faculty and student volunteers.

“There are incredible amounts of detailed planning and preparation that take place behind the scenes that students, faculty and many staff never know or see,” said Registrar Lori Gibbon, who serves as co-chair of the commencement committee.

All hands on deck

On Friday, May 6, several staff volunteers served as program distributors, seat and parking lot attendants, golf cart chauffeurs and guest greeters during commencement at the Hartman Arena. Newman students served as volunteer marshals and helped graduates file into their seats.

Faculty members also served in crucial volunteer roles that added to the day’s success. Associate Professor of English Susan Crane-Laracuente was tasked with presenting the candidates and announced each graduate’s name as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Practicing the pronunciation of each name is only a small piece of the puzzle, Crane-Laracuente said.

“The key thing is Christine Werth and her document, as well as anyone else who has had a hand in the list,” she said. “This list is a masterpiece of attention and time. It shows whether the graduate is attending or not, their major and exactly what I need to say along with the pronunciation if they’ve sent something to help with that. This allows me to practice in advance to get as close to what the student wants in how I pronounce their name as possible, which is the goal.”

Susan Crane-Laracuente referred to the list of graduates' names and practiced pronunciation before the ceremony.
Susan Crane-Laracuente referred to the list of graduates’ names and practiced pronunciation before the ceremony.

Elements like a poised academic procession, melodic performances by the Newman Troubadours and a particularly memorable commencement address all contributed to the day’s success.

It’s all in the planning

Though the 2022 Newman Commencement ceremony was held in May, preparation for the event began as early as October.

“We essentially work nearly all year to plan what we hope is a fantastic event for our graduates,” Gibbon said. “I handle all things academic in conjunction with Laura Hartley who handles all things event-related. We also have a tremendous group of people who serve on the commencement committee and we would not be able to have a successful event without them.”

(From left to right) Susan Crane-Laracuente and Lori Gibbon.
(From left to right) Susan Crane-Laracuente and Lori Gibbon. Gibbon serves as co-chair of the commencement committee.

The task force handles everything from reserving the event location, creating diplomas and planning the setup and logistics of the day to working with other areas of campus to rehearse musical performances, prepare commencement programs along with many more tasks.

“The students work exceptionally hard to earn their degrees, so we feel a significant responsibility to work just as hard to have a graduation that meets or exceeds their expectations,” Gibbon said.

Hartley, who recently took on a new role at Newman as director of annual giving, serves as co-chair of the planning committee alongside Gibbon. A few of Hartley’s many tasks as the former event coordinator involved coordinating RSVPs for graduates, setting the stage at the Hartman Arena and managing the student marshalls.  

Laura Hartley
Laura Hartley also serves as co-chair of the commencement committee.

“Commencement is always a special event,” Hartley said. “It’s fun to see graduates excited about their future and to see their families so excited. It’s really about making it the best day for them.”

As the graduating students officially become Newman alumni, Director of Alumni Relations Dana Beitey said she was excited to welcome the graduates into the Alumni Association.

“It’s probably the most exciting day out of the entire year and it’s been amazing to be part of the process,” Beitey said. “We’re excited to see the ways that they will stay engaged with the university.”

Grateful hearts

Countless hours were put into the planning and production of commencement 2022, and Gibbon is grateful for the “tremendous community at Newman University,” she said.

“It is because of people like Christine Werth, Laura Hartley, Sandra Bush, Jennifer Maddux, Matthew Miller, Deanne Zogleman, Carole Pracht, Emily Simon, Gabrielle Dodosh, Vanessa Rials, Clark Schafer, Abbi Timmermeyer, and student volunteer Sophie Johnston that we are able to have such a wonderful demonstration of commencement,” she said.

Hartley said the commencement committee is appreciative of every person that volunteers at any of the commencement activities — whether it be the actual ceremony, the Baccalaureate Mass the night before or other events in between. 

“It just speaks volumes that so many people in the Newman community step up when we ask them to help out,” she said.

Newman University diploma covers were stacked and ready to be handed out to graduates prior to the commencement ceremony.

Photos from commencement can be found on the Newman University Flickr page.