The coronavirus pandemic will not cancel a second straight in-person commencement for Waterville’s two colleges.

Thomas College announced this past week it would hold its 127th commencement weekend at its Waterville campus May 14-15. Thomas is inviting its 2020 and 2021 graduates to the in-person ceremony, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at the Alfond Athletic Center’s fieldhouse. The class of 2021 is made up of 163 undergraduate students and 51 graduate students.

“Students and their families are very, very excited that we’ll be able to return to at least some semblance of normal with an in-person element of graduation this year,” Provost Thomas Edwards said. “Faculty, staff, students and their families are all really, really excited for the opportunity to come back and celebrate in person.”

Two guests per graduate may attend commencement, which is the same at Colby College, which is hosting its commencement ceremonies May 22-23. Commencement is scheduled for Sunday, May 23, at 10 a.m. staged in front of the college’s Miller Library at its Waterville campus. Baccalaureate will take place the day before in an outdoor setting without guests. The commencement will also be streamed virtually. Colby has not yet announced its commencement speaker.

Events are timed so there is little overlap between move-out and when guests come to campus for commencement. Thomas is holding its honors convocation Friday evening at 6:30 p.m., also with a two-guest maximum. In many years, Edwards said students bring between 10-15 guests.

All attendees are required to follow COVID-19 safety protocols such as masking and distancing at all events. Outdoor spaces will be utilized for supplementary commencement events which continue to be planned.

“We still need to follow the protocols from the Maine (Center for Disease Control & Prevention) and the governor,” Edwards said. “We’ll have a smaller crowd, so we’ll supplement that with the online streaming, tents on the quad. … It will be smaller numbers, but at the end of the day the most important piece is each graduate gets to walk across the stage, be greeted by President (Laurie) Lachance and be handed their diploma.”

Kyle Greene will represent the Thomas undergraduate student body as a speaker. The native of Claremont, New Hampshire, is graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor of science in elementary education. He plans on continuing at Thomas for a master’s in the educational leadership, principal/superintendent program.

Tiffany White will speak on behalf of the Thomas graduate students. Originally from Barnstead, New Hampshire, White will graduate with a master’s in business administration degree focused in accounting. She will work in the audit department of Baker Newman Noyes in New Hampshire while working on becoming a Certified Fraud Examiner and Certified Public Accountant.

Meredith Strang Burgess, president and CEO of Burgess Advertising & Marketing, will serve as commencement speaker at Thomas. A Cumberland resident, Strang Burgess previously served in the Maine House of Representatives and on the boards of the Maine Cancer Consortium, the Maine Public Health Association and the Portland Ronald McDonald House.

In some years, Thomas graduates bring a dozen or more guests to commencement. Last year, commencement was virtual. Albeit with limited guests, the school’s 127th commencement shows a trend in the right direction on “turning the corner of the pandemic.”

“Just as we have done throughout the entire academic year where we have managed our operations to respect health protocols and risk mitigation strategies, all of those things are still in place for a big event like this,” Edwards said. “It’s a sign for Thomas and the state of Maine of what we’ve done to weather everything that we’ve all had to go through this year.”

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