Hundreds of Ohio University graduates hit the bricks one final time on Sunday as they returned to Athens for a 2020 graduation do-over.
Students, some of whom have not been back to Athens since moving out in 2020, filled rows of seats set up in a semicircle around Templeton-Blackburn Memorial Auditorium for the 2020 class commencement.
The 2020 spring commencement was canceled in March 2020 just as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold in the United States, WOUB reported. The Athens NEWS reported the university announced the Sept. 5 date in April.
The ceremony was held on the College Green for the first time in decades. The university previously held many of its commencement ceremonies on the green before the Convocation Center was built in the late 1960s.
Some of the former students said they were thrilled to be back for a real graduation after the end of their senior year was whisked away by the coronavirus pandemic.
Athalia Davis, 22, who was receiving her associate’s degree in computer science and her bachelor’s degree in business, said she was excited to be back in town after a year and a half.
“I’m really glad we got to come together eventually — especially with this year being kind of tough and last year as well,” Davis said.
Ohio University President Hugh Sherman welcomed the former students back to campus.
“It was heartbreaking to see our campuses close, our classrooms empty and our brick pathways to quiet,” Sherman said during his address. “After you graduated, you continued on your own personal journeys over this past year. I want to salute you for overcoming so many challenges and for doing your best through this difficult time.”
The commencement speaker was Keith Hawkins, an OU alum and assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin. Hawkins is known for his innovative research focused primarily on "Galactic Archaeology," which is aimed at exploring the formation, evolution and structure of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Hawkins received his B.S. in astrophysics (with minors in mathematics and African studies) from Ohio University in 2013.
Ali Marshall, 23, who was receiving her bachelor’s in education, said Ohio University 2020 graduates were fortunate to have received an in-person graduation — even a belated one.
“I’m excited they decided to have an in-person ceremony, especially since a lot of other colleges decided to do it online,” Marshall said. “So I appreciate that they waited for us to be able to have it, which is really cool.”
Rachel Penny, 22, who also received a bachelor’s in education, said the outdoor venue was a unique experience.
“It’s a really cool experience to get to (graduate) on College Green,” Penny said. “No class in the time we’ve been here has got to do that.”