Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury addresses the class of 2020 during Saturday’s online celebration. Image screen capture

Instead of gathering at Unity College for an in-person commencement ceremony Saturday morning, the class of 2020 watched from home as staff members celebrated them in an online send off.

At 11 a.m., the college premiered a video that congratulated the group of 200 graduates on its Facebook page. The video included speeches from college President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury; Zach Falcon, vice president for flagship and professor of conservation law enforcement; Dr. Amy Arnett, vice president for distance education and professor of ecology; Chief Academic Officer Dr. Erika Latty; and keynote speaker Danni Washington.

“Today is the day that we celebrate your hard work to become alums of America’s environmental college,” Khoury said. “For many of you, this would’ve been the time where you’d be saying your final goodbyes to your lifelong friends on campus, getting ready for the next chapter of your life … but alas, due to COVID-19, social distancing and shelter in place, we aren’t able to do that this May.”

Like other colleges across the state, Unity made the decision to transition to distance learning in March due to the increased severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

The regular commencement ceremony, which was scheduled for Saturday at its flagship campus at Quaker Hill Road in Unity, has now been tentatively scheduled for Aug. 1. Graduates who are unable to attend the ceremony in August are also encouraged to attend the ceremony scheduled for Dec. 18.

“Campus just isn’t the same without the hustle and bustle of commencement energy,” Khoury said. “… But all is not lost because thanks to the quick thinking of our community, we have an August and a December commencement to make sure that for those of you who would like to march and celebrate in that energy have two opportunities to do so from the one opportunity we were robbed of in May.”


Unity College staff celebrate the class of 2020 through an online send off Saturday morning. Image screen capture

Of the 200 graduates, 38 students earned their degrees through Unity’s distance learning program.

Arnett, the head of the distance education program, said the distance learning graduates include students from California, Texas, South Dakota and Illinois. The youngest of the graduates is Dorothy Jean Tillman, a 14-year-old from Chicago who earned her master’s degree in environmental science and sustainability.

“We are proud of all of you,” Arnett said. “I understand that some of our students have been personally and in some cases professionally afflicted (by COVID-19). Yet, all of you have persisted to advance in your education, advance in your careers and advance in your lives. And we are super proud of you for those achievements.”

Staff members who spoke during Saturday’s celebration noted that the circumstances the college found itself in during the spring semester can be used as a learning experience.

“While this is certainly not how any of us anticipated the end of the school year unfolding, I think that it has taught all of us a lesson,” Latty said. “Not only you graduates, but for us as staff and faculty here at Unity College. It’s a simple life lesson … expect the unexpected.”

Graduates in the Central Maine region include: Meagan Arsenault, of Fairfield, who majored in marine biology; Sydney Gross, of Farmingdale, who majored in sustainable agriculture; Jarrett Hill, of Fairfield, who majored in conservation law enforcement; Kelsey Radley, of Randolph, who majored in sustainable agriculture; Raina Sciocchetti, of Smithfield, who majored in environmental writing and media studies; Jacob SeeHusen, of Corinna, who majored in wildlife and fisheries management; Nathanael Tilton, of Detroit, who majored in conservation law enforcement; Bradley Wilson, of Newport, who majored in wildlife biology; Ayden Young, of Hallowell, who majored in sustainable energy management; and Kurstyn True, from Readfield, who majored in wildlife and fisheries management.

“On behalf of our Board of Trustees, our faculty, our staff and the power invested in me by the state of Maine and Unity College, I now call you Unity College alums,” Khoury said.

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