LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Crews are setting the stages at Williams Stadium and the Academic Lawn to host a total of 25 in-person degree presentation ceremonies between Tuesday and Saturday during Liberty University’s 48th Commencement exercises.
However, the ceremonies from Tuesday, May 11 and Saturday, May 15 will also be streamed and saved online for graduates who prefer to participate virtually in real time or at a later date.
The week’s festivities will wrap up with a virtual Commencement ceremony at 7 p.m. on Saturday, featuring keynote speaker Tim Tebow.
According to Liberty University, more than 5,600 residential and online graduates from the Classes of 2021 and 2020 are expected to celebrate on campus.
Due to Gov. Ralph Northam’s capacity and space restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, school officials say tickets will be required for all events and a number of measures have been implemented for the ceremonies:
- Academic Lawn is restricted to 1,852 people while Williams Stadium is allowed up to 5,000.
- Most of the events have been planned within a four-hour window to allow for ample preparation time and for cleaning and sanitizing afterward.
- Families are allowed to remain together in pod-style seating.
- Tickets will be required for all events, which is why close to 37,000 guest tickets in all have been ordered for the week.
Ceremonies will kick off in Williams Stadium on Tuesday at 10 a.m.. Meanwhile, Academic Lawn will start to host its very first degree presentations at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 12.
You can check out a full schedule of ceremonies on the Commencement website.
However, in addition to celebrating 28,351 residential and online students from the Class of 2021, the university is also welcoming back students from the Class of 2020.
“The entire Liberty University team was disappointed when we were not able to recognize our graduates in-person in 2020,” said Lori Baker, Liberty’s senior associate registrar for student services and records who is in her 14th year serving as program manager for Commencement. “We are so excited to be able to have our graduates here on campus this week to celebrate all of their great accomplishments. Things may look a little different from what they have in the past, but we are doing our best to pull together a great event for them on campus. We are also excited to still be able to continue with our plans to recognize our graduates virtually who are not able to attend in person this year.”
Baker says more than 10,000 graduates have registered to participate in their degree ceremonies virtually, with the chance to be recognized individually.
Although Liberty has broadcast its main ceremony online for many years, “the virtual degree ceremonies have been a new element for us this year,” Baker said. “It has been great to see how the entire team from Broadcast, IT, Marketing, and our Commencement team have come together to work though the creation of these ceremonies to ensure that our graduates participating in the virtual Commencement are recognized for their hard work.”
As part of a longstanding Liberty tradition, the university plans to honor its military graduates in a virtual Military Graduate Recognition Ceremony, which you can watch live on the Commencement website and the Office of Military Affairs’ Facebook page at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 10.
The ceremony is meant to honor service members, veterans, and military spouses who completed their degree in both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.
School officials say there are a total of 5,494 students with military connections in the Class of 2021, including 1,835 in active duty, as well as 2,444 military spouses.
While Liberty’s Commencement planning team works year-round to assure that the festivities run smoothly each year, Baker says she is proud of the cooperation she’s seen across multiple departments to meet this year’s unique challenges.
“The entire Liberty University community has been amazing to work with this spring,” she said. “They have been quick to react to the different needs and challenges that we have had to make Commencement happen with our changing requirements, on a much shorter timeline. Final details are coming together for a great week, and we are excited to celebrate the graduating Classes of 2020 and 2021.”
Here are some fun facts about Liberty University’s Class of 2021:
Total Liberty University Graduates for 2021 – 28,351
- Total Liberty University Online graduates – 23,331 (82%)
- Total residential graduates – 4,023 (14%)
- Total Liberty University Online Academy (K-12) graduates – 997 (4%)
Top states represented by graduates
- Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, California, South Carolina, and Maryland
Top countries represented by graduates
- The United States, Canada, Korea, Germany, China, Japan, Nigeria, the Bahamas, and the United Kingdom
Top overall majors
- Interdisciplinary Studies
- Criminal Justice
- Master of Business Administration
Average age: 34
- Male: 40%
- Female: 60%
- Married – 41 pairs
- Parent/Child – 38 pairs
- Siblings – 280
- Twins – 23 pairs
- 3,095 with a perfect 4.0 GPA
- 9,563 graduating with honors