(PHOTO GALLERY) In its first post-COVID-19 graduation ceremonies, Texas Tech begins a return to normalcy.
Resilience and adaptability were on full display at Texas Tech University's spring commencement ceremonies over the weekend, not only in the message to the class of 2021, which endured and overcame a global pandemic, but also in the university's determination to take a purposeful step forward in its aftermath.
Only a week after hosting a special in-person ceremony for more than 1,000 graduates from May, August and December 2020, whose original commencements were held virtually because of COVID-19, Texas Tech held a triumphant return to almost-normal, bringing together nearly 1,600 graduates for an in-person, open-air celebration Friday (May 14) in Jones AT&T Stadium.
And almost-normal it was. Students clustered for small group photos before the ceremony, and faculty members walked through, greeting those they'd worked with. Apart from the references in President Lawrence Schovanec's speech to COVID-19, and the ceremony's location – the stadium, rather than the usual commencement location, United Supermarkets Arena – it would have been easy to forget how recently Texas Tech, and the country, were in the pandemic's shadow.
Yet, when anticipated severe weather threatened to disrupt Saturday's (May 15) joint ceremony for more than 2,100 additional graduates, the university did what has become second nature over the last year – pivoting, seemingly seamlessly, to offer instead four separate commencement ceremonies in the United Supermarkets Arena.
It was the most recent show of what Texas Tech has always done best: adapt and overcome.
“You'll have a unique story to tell about the challenges you faced in completing your college degree,” Schovanec said in his address to the graduates. “Through your selfless attitude, your willingness to cooperate and your compassion for others, you helped us reopen our doors last fall and allowed us to operate safely in the midst of a global pandemic. Each of you have learned to be more resourceful and adaptable – two traits that will serve you well for the rest of your life.
“How you have responded to these challenges is more important, more defining and more lasting than the circumstances you've confronted. Like generations of Red Raiders before you, you did what you had to do to get the job done, and you worked to be part of the solution.”
Friday evening's ceremony honored the Graduate School and the College of Arts & Sciences. Saturday's 9 a.m. ceremony honored the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business and the Honors College; 11 a.m. ceremony the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts and the College of Architecture; 1 p.m. ceremony the College of Media & Communication and the College of Human Sciences; and 3 p.m. ceremony the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, the College of Education and University Programs.
As the university's newest 3,700-plus graduates joined the ranks of Texas Tech alumni, they received a complimentary one-year membership to the Texas Tech Alumni Association, made possible by the Office of the President, and a one-year membership to the Red Raider Club, made possible by a generous gift from alumni George and Linda McMahan.
Graduates turned their tassels to the left, and those with the official class ring turned it outward, becoming part of an ever-growing family of Texas Tech alumni. They were then lauded by thousands of their immediate family members in the audience. Undoubtedly remembering the trials of the previous year, many of those mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents and children found a new appreciation in being present to witness such a momentous occasion.
For his part, Schovanec encouraged the graduates go forth, embracing both the opportunities and challenges ahead. Along the way, he urged, they should stay committed to their personal and Texas Tech families, as well as to their friends, communities and to causes that make a difference in the world.
“‘Strive for honor evermore' – that is an essential part of what Texas Tech is about,” Schovanec said. “Because you are Red Raiders, there is an expectation that you will change the world for the better. I know you will add to that legacy.”