Packing the stands
Liberty to host 50,000 guests at the 43rd Commencement ceremony
With more than 6,000 graduate walking in 27 degree presentation ceremonies, Liberty University is ready to welcome an estimated 50,000 guests on-campus during Commencement weekend May 12.
President Donald J. Trump will headline the 2017 Commencement May 13 at Williams Stadium.
According to the News and Advance, Commencement will be Trump’s third appearance at Liberty after speaking in Convocation in 2012 and 2016.
This will be Trump’s first Commencement address as president.
Associate Registrar for Operations Lori Baker said the planning committee is working closely with U.S. Secret Service to ensure security checks are quick and efficient the morning of Commencement.
Attendees are encouraged to check the 2017 Commencement website for security updates.
“We have added around 8,000 more seats in the stadium,” Baker said.
“With that, we feel we will be able to accommodate any extra guests … (We want) to make this the most comfortable event as we can.”
In addition to extra seating, Baker also added that the stadium will be outfitted with extra concession stands and restrooms.
Moreover, televangelist and founder of LIFE Outreach International James Robison will speak at the Baccalaureate Service May 12.
According to Liberty News, Robison’s nonprofit works primarily with fighting the hunger crisis, providing clean water and building homes for the homeless, among other humanitarian services.
“I have fond memories from my childhood of (Robison’s) preaching in Lynchburg,” Liberty University President Jerry Falwell said in an interview with Liberty News.
“His work through LIFE Outreach has literally saved millions of lives. He is an inspiration and great friend to Liberty. We are honored to have him speak for Baccalaureate.”
Commencement weekend serves as a celebration of graduates’ work during their time at Liberty.
The festivities will give families and graduates an opportunity to reflect and connect with faculty and staff, classmates and each other.
Spread over two days, Commencement events cater to every niche of the university.
However, five main events affect every graduate: Commencement check-in, a graduation reception, Baccalaureate Service, Commencement Ceremony and degree presentation ceremonies.
Friday, May 12
Commencement check-in begins at 8:30 a.m. in the LaHaye Student Union and continues until 4:30 p.m. All graduates are encouraged to check in during this time.
In the morning, the Army ROTC Commissioning Ceremony will take place at 9 a.m., the Military Spouse Graduate Recognition Ceremony at 10 a.m., and School of Business Doctoral Hooding Ceremony at 11:30 a.m.
From 2-4 p.m., the Academic Lawn will house a vibrant graduation reception, featuring carnival-style food, informational stands and photo booths.
Many residential and online faculty members will be at the reception.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to mingle with faculty,” Baker said.
“For many students, it’s a time to have parents meet their favorite professors. (It is also) a great opportunity for online students to meet their faculty for the first time.”
Additionally, the Air Force ROTC Commissioning Ceremony and Military Graduate Recognition Ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. respectively.
All graduates and loved ones are encouraged to attend the Baccalaureate Service in the Vines Center at 6 p.m.
Saturday, May 13
Security check-in for the Commencement Ceremony begins at 6 a.m. at Williams Stadium. The student processional begins at 8 a.m., followed by the faculty processional at 9:30 a.m. Guests should adhere to the university’s clear-bag policy to ease the flow of security checks and ensure the ceremony begins promptly at 10 a.m.
“Getting onto campus early (Saturday) is going to benefit (students),” Baker said.
Some students are concerned their family members may not be able to get into the ceremony because of the amount of spectators attending to hear Trump speak.
However, Baker said the university is boosting transportation, opening multiple gates and ensuring guests have a seamless experience.
Following Commencement, students will disperse to attend their school-specific degree presentation ceremonies.
Each school is assigned a different venue on campus for its degree presentation ceremony, and some of the new structures on campus will be used for the events.
For example, the yet-to-be-completed Williams Practice Facility will host the Human Services ceremony, and the communications graduates will receive their diplomas at the indoor track facility on Liberty Mountain.
For a complete list of degree presentation ceremonies, locations and other information, download the Commencement Weekend Guide from the registrar’s tab on Liberty’s website.
Smith is a copy editor.