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On what would have been graduation day, universities celebrate virtually

The University of Maine System and University of Southern Maine are just some of the schools taking celebrations online amid the coronavirus.

MAINE, USA — No caps will be tossed, no toasts or speeches will be said, but ceremony or not, graduates are celebrating this weekend. 

Saturday would have been commencement day for The University of Maine System (USM) and The University of Southern Maine. They are just a few of the colleges in Maine taking celebrations virtual this year. 

Nearly 4,600 USM students are graduating this year. 

“All UMS universities and the Law School will be awarding degrees on schedule and recognizing the academic achievements of our graduating students,” Chancellor Malloy wrote in a message to the University community. “While traditional in-person commencement exercises are not possible during the pandemic, each university will determine an appropriate alternative celebration that balances the need to protect public health with the joyful recognition of our students' academic aspirations and achievements.” 

RELATED: UMaine cancels graduation ceremonies due to coronavirus

UMaine had a whole week of celebration with its Class of 2020 Recognition Week, filled with video tributes and special messages from faculty to graduates.

“The Commencement Committee desired to plan a virtual recognition event that would be special, meaningful and memorable for the Class of 2020,” Kimberly Whitehead, UMaine Chief of Staff and Commencement coordinator, said. “We are excited to celebrate and honor the achievements of our Class of 2020 graduates, outstanding students and faculty members through the student recognition weeks. We extend best wishes and congratulations to our graduates.” 

Although The University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) will hold a traditional commencement ceremony on campus in August, the University is also holding virtual celebrations across multiple social media platforms on Saturday for its 374 graduates.

"We are so proud of our graduates and all they have achieved this year," UMF President Edward Serna said in a virtual address to graduates. "They have inspired their families, fellow students and communities with an exceptional level of determination and innovation during these unprecedented times. It is an honor to take this moment to celebrate their personal commitment and singular success in accomplishing their educational goals."

UMF will also have a virtual toast via Zoom, a live band performance via Facebook, and has a slideshow featuring students that will air on Facebook and Instagram at 2 p.m.

UMaine football coach Nick Charlton took to Twitter Saturday to give a special shoutout to graduating seniors. 

The University of Southern Maine (USM) also took celebrations online on Saturday. The university said plans have also begun for an in-person ceremony to be held Saturday, October 3, during USM’s annual homecoming weekend. The university said details will be forthcoming. 

RELATED: USM to hold its first-ever online commencement due to coronavirus, COVID-19

“The most joyous day on the USM calendar is Commencement Day,” USM President Glenn Cummings said. “It’s a time for us to celebrate the extraordinary intellectual growth and determination that are at the heart of our university. It is a chance for new graduates to honor the sacrifice of family and loved ones, to acknowledge their own achievement and to reflect on their journey from the perspective of this milestone. This Commencement Day will be like no other in the history of the University.” 

The celebration featured a video recognizing every graduate, as well as remarks by a student speaker, the university president, and two honorary degree recipients. 

The University of Maine at Machias Class of 2020 graduates will be celebrated with an online Recognition Ceremony on May 30 at 1 p.m.  

Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) also canceled in-person graduation, which was set for May 17, and place the school is planning to hold a virtual ceremony online on June 14.

“This is very disappointing because commencement is such an important and inspiring milestone for graduates, their families and the SMCC community,” Cassidy said. “But the health and safety of students, employees, family members and others who would want to attend commencement is the top priority, and we simply can’t bring together people to celebrate at this time.”

RELATED: SMCC cancels in-person commencement due to COVID-19, plans virtual graduation ceremony in its place

Former President Barak Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama will help virtually celebrate the entire U.S. Class of 2020 through a special commencement address in June. 

"I’ve always loved joining commencements––the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice," former president Obama tweeted. "Even if we can’t get together in person this year, Michelle and I are excited to celebrate the nationwide Class of 2020 and recognize this milestone with you and your loved ones."  

RELATED: Barack, Michelle Obama delivering virtual commencement addresses to Class of 2020

YouTube is hosting the "Dear Class of 2020" celebration that Barack and Michelle Obama are headlining on Saturday, June 6 at 3 p.m. Eastern.  

RELATED: UMaine System makes plans for return of students in the fall

RELATED: Universities refund $12.8M to students for room and board charges over coronavirus closures

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