Week of well-wishes culminates in Commencement

UND recognizes new graduates before Saturday’s commencement ceremonies

Interim President Joshua Wynne delivers remarks to UND’s Spring 2020 graduates virtually.

How do you recognize the achievements of some 2,000 new UND graduates who are unable to cross the stage and receive their diplomas?

With well-wishes from across the nation.

Even though the UND commencement ceremonies will take place online, UND’s desire to celebrate and recognize the academic accomplishments of our graduates remains a priority, said Fred Wittmann, director of ceremonies and University events.

“We wanted our graduates to feel honored,” Wittmann said.

Each day, soon-to-be graduates open their emails to find video greetings from one of a dozen UND personalities, from athletes to movie stars.

It started with a video from Interim President Joshua Wynne, who invited grads to take part in virtual commencement ceremonies that will be posted online Saturday, May 16, at 10 a.m. The ceremonies include General Commencement for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees; School of Medicine & Health Sciences Commencement; and School of Law Commencement.

Each ceremony will include video remarks from President Wynne and other administrators, as well as a slide of each student with their name, degree, major, a recording of their name, and a submitted photo. Viewers and students can search by name as well as watch each ceremony.

Eligible candidates for graduation number 2,063. UND will award degrees to 1,351 undergraduates, 580 master’s and doctoral students, 74 medical doctors, and 55 law students.

You are UND

“The pandemic has changed your life as a student and as a member of the University of North Dakota community,” said Wynne. “I really wish you could be here to celebrate with your friends. I wish you could be here to walk across the stage as your family and friends cheer. You are the University of North Dakota. Your spirit, your passion, your remarkable resilience during these challenging times. You are UND.”

“Shout it out from the rooftops, and let friends and family know so they can celebrate with you – and send you some gifts!” said Cassie Gerhardt, associate dean of students and director of student involvement and parent programs. “Be proud of your accomplishments, and welcome to the University of North Dakota family!”

“Although you won’t be walking across the stage to grab your diploma, you’ll be leaving this university with much more than a diploma,” said mechanical engineering major and student athlete Hunter Pinke. “The diploma is not the dream. The process is the dream, and in that process, all the hard work, dedication and perseverance are going to be traits that take you through the rest of your life. Congratulations and Go Hawks!”

“You have persevered though unique and challenging times to earn your UND degree,” said Head Football Coach Bubba Schweigert. “I wish you all the best as you chase your dreams and continue to make us UND Proud.”

“Congratulations!” said Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter. “You’ve been given the gift of a great education at the University of North Dakota. Take advantage of it and reach for the stars. Don’t let anybody tell you that you cannot accomplish something, and don’t be in such a hurry that you forget to enjoy the moment. Go UND!”

“I would not have been anything without the opportunity to go to UND,” said former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp. “Be proud of your school and what you’ve accomplished.”

“Be yourself,” said Linda Pancratz, chair and CEO of Mountain Capital, LLC, and UND honorary degree recipient. “Don’t waste time and energy trying to be someone that you are not. We all have something that makes us special and unique. Protect that. It’s really important to be clear on who you are as well as who you want to be. Most of the time I didn’t know the job I wanted next, but I always knew the kind of person I wanted to be. Enjoy your journey.”

“I can’t imagine that you thought your ceremony would look like this,” said actor and Minot native Josh Duhamel. “But it’s going to get better from here. Congratulations on all your hard work. Here’s to you!”

More surprises

Graduates are set to receive three more videos before the virtual ceremony, said Wittmann, who added that the names will be a surprise.

“We want our graduates to see the messages first,” Wittmann said.

Students will later receive a graduation “Hawk Pack” with a diploma, diploma folder, printed program, honor medallion if appropriate, and commencement mementos. Spring graduates are also invited to return to campus to participate in a future commencement ceremony.