Photographs of Kennebec Valley Community College graduates will substitute for real people in caps and gowns at the 2020 graduation ceremony that will be broadcast May 16. Above, KVCC graduates enjoy commencement May 18, 2019.

Kennebec Valley Community College has moved its commencement ceremony online because of the coronavirus pandemic, but President Richard Hopper believes it will still be a special experience.

“In some ways, it’s a disappointment for all of us — not just the faculty, but the community, the family and friends of the graduates,” Hopper said. “But I’m looking at this as a moment in history. Of course, it’s difficult for the graduates, not being able to celebrate in person, but they’ll have this graduation recorded to have for all of time.” 

Hopper said the full ceremony will be videotaped this week in the multipurpose room at the KVCC campus and broadcast online and on local-access television at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 16.

“We’re trying to use the same local businesses that we normally do for graduation,” Hopper said. “We’re going to use the same florist and have the flowers set up by the podium. Headlight Audio Visual will record the ceremony.”

But the college will not have a room filled with new graduates.

“Right now, each student is submitting a photograph of themselves in their caps and gowns,” Hopper said. “That will be put into the slideshow with their credentials when their name is called.” 

Hopper will deliver a speech as will Dean of Academic Affairs Kathryn Englehart; Vice President and Dean of Students Karen Normandin; representatives of the KVCC Foundation, the Maine Community College System and the Maine Community College board of trustees; keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District; alumni; and Mason Peterson, KVCC’s student of the year.

Other colleges in Maine are moving to an online format or have opted to reschedule their in-person graduation ceremonies.

Bates College in Lewiston announced last month it was canceling its traditional commencement and replacing it with a virtual ceremony, scheduled for May 31.

Unity College in Unity and Colby College and Thomas College in Waterville have chosen to reschedule their in-person graduation ceremonies to late summer or fall.

Mark Kavanaugh, a KVCC professor and director of the college’s Center for Civic Engagement, said although he thinks the online ceremony will be adequate, he is disappointed the traditional commencement had to be canceled.

“I’m fully confident we will do all we can to provide a meaningful celebration of our students’ accomplishments,” Kavanaugh said in an email. “Personally, I am bummed we will not have a regular graduation.”

A link for students to watch the graduation online will be posted later this week on the KVCC website.

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