‘You found a way to adapt’: Coastal Carolina celebrates class of 2020 with virtual graduation

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Friday night was a first for Coastal Carolina University, as the class of 2020 graduated virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

College graduation ceremonies normally have decorated caps and new alumni posing with diplomas, surrounded by hundreds of classmates. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has stolen many of those memories for the class of 2020.

That’s why colleges like Coastal Carolina have to get creative this year, so the HTC Center was replaced by YouTube for CCU’s first virtual commencement.

“This was and still is uncharted territory, but you found a way to adapt, creating a new normal in the midst of chaos,” said Dr. David DeCenzo, president of CCU. “You stayed the course and you earned your degree.”

Dr. DeCenzo also mentioned the hurricanes that displaced students and canceled classes since 2016. Names read in separate school videos replaced that walk across the stage and Instagram took the spot of after ceremony photos with friends or professors.

Emmy-nominated actor and Coastal alumnus Michael Kelly was the commencement speaker, summarizing the feeling of missing out on a traditional ceremony.

“Let’s get this out of the way up top, this sucks,” Kelly said at the start of his recorded speech from his New York City home.

Known for his roles in TV shows like “House of Cards” and “Jack Ryan,” Kelly used the pandemic as a metaphor for resiliency.

“There is something about being punched in the stomach on your way out the door and seeing yourself still standing afterwards that gives you a confidence that usually takes years to achieve,” said Kelly, who graduated from CCU in 1992.

Dr. DeCenzo says the class of 2020 will be invited back to campus for celebrations when it’s safe to hopefully create one final memory together.

“I hope that your time spent here at Coastal, the impact you’ve made, the achievements and the challenges you have overcome has provided you with irreplaceable experiences,” he said at the end of the ceremony.

Earlier in the day Friday, Dr. DeCenzo told the university’s board that Coastal plans to resume in-person classes in August for the fall semester.

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