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Commencement to be held in Stadium

Sarah Mervosh | Friday, May 14, 2010

­­Last year, graduating seniors could bring only three guests to Commencement. This year, some students will have as many as 60 family members and friends present when they graduate as a result of the University’s decision to move the Commencement ceremony to Notre Dame stadium.

“Parents from each year would say, ‘It’s really hard on us to have so few guest tickets for such an important event and can you please do something about that?'” University Registrar Harold Pace said.

As a result of the change, seniors can have an unlimited number of guests, and their guests will be able to sit together in the stadium — something that would not have been possible in the Joyce Athletic Center.

Commencement had been held in the Joyce Center since 1969, but the Center’s recent renovations made seating limited and sparked the decision to change locations, Pace said.

“We were already down to three or four tickets per family. We didn’t feel like that’s where we needed to go in the future,” Pace said. “We decided with this renovation that it was the year that we needed to make formal recommendation to move to the stadium.”

Pace estimated that 25,000 people will attend the ceremony Sunday, a substantial increase from the 9,000 that attended in the past. He said the crowd is expected to fill half the stadium.

The large bulk of the crowd will be guests, Stephanie Maenhout, senior administrative assistant for the Office of Registrar, said.

Approximately 22,000 guests are expected to attend, with students bringing an average of eight guests each, she said.

“The responses that I got were wonderful. It was like yes, I really do have that many family members coming. The one has 60 coming,” Maenhout said. “We think it’s wonderful.”
Pace said there will be two large screens broadcasting the ceremony in the stadium, as well as a broadcast in DeBartolo Hall for those who wish to be inside.

Commencement was last held in the stadium in 1959. Commencement has also previously been held at the Grotto, University Mall, Stepan Center and Washington Hall.

In addition to the change in Commencement location, the University will hold diploma ceremonies separate from Commencement.

“What happened in the past was graduating students would go to the field house and faculty were there to distribute the diplomas to them, but not in ceremony,” Pace said. “They would actually walk into Commencement holding their diploma in hand.”

Assistant Registrar Lora Spaulding said this method of diploma distribution was missing a key element.

“What was lacking there was the individual recognition,” she said.

Eighteen diploma ceremonies, separated by department, will take place across campus Sunday afternoon.

Pace said the decision to implement diploma ceremonies also came in response to parent and student feedback.

“We had requests from parents saying that would be really nice if they could actually see their student receive their diploma in hand and we felt that was an important part of the weekend,” Pace said.

An additional change this year will be the time of the ceremony, Pace said.

Previously, the ceremony was held Sunday afternoon, but this year it will be held at 9 a.m., Pace said.

The addition of diploma ceremonies, which needed to occur Sunday afternoon, contributed to the time change, Pace said.

“We really ruled out having a University ceremony on Saturday because some family members might not have been in town,” he said. “The other factor is since it is outdoors, there are fewer thunderstorms in the morning than in the afternoon.”

In the event of rain, the ceremony will proceed as planned. If the weather is severe —lightning, high winds or heavy, persistent rain — the ceremony will be moved to the Joyce Center. A message will be sent to graduates’ cell phones via the ND Emergency Alert System, Pace said.

Each graduate is allotted three guest tickets if the ceremony is moved to the Joyce Center, but severe weather will not affect the number of guests who can attend the diploma ceremonies in the afternoon, Maenhout said.

Pace said the decision to move Commencement to the stadium will be a long-term change.
“It is our location moving forward,” he said.

Spaulding said she thinks the change will be a positive one.

“There is no other venue that can handle the number of people that come,” she said. “I think the students are excited about being able to graduate in the stadium.”

Students can pick up guest tickets today at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.