FMU celebrates spring commencement

Graduates receive COVID-19 degrees


Photo by: Elodi Breg

Kelcey King and Dadria Harris embrace each other after the graduation ceremony outside of the Smith University Center.

FMU celebrated the graduation of 379 graduates who said their final goodbyes to FMU as they walked across the stage on Friday, Sept. 18 and Saturday, Sept. 19.

Out of the 379, 90 graduated with honors. The youngest graduate was 21 and the oldest graduate was 71.

President Fred Carter said he was proud that 92 percent of the graduates were South Carolina natives.

Due to COVID-19, the commencement ceremony had to be pushed back several months to make sure CDC guidelines could be followed.

Carter said that if the students gave the school time, they would find a way to celebrate their achievement.

“Francis Marion had never cancelled a commencement ceremony in its entire 50-year history,” Carter said.

Each of the ceremonies were split up by the different areas of study. Friday’s ceremony celebrated the school of business and the school of education. Saturday’s ceremony celebrated graduates from the college of liberal arts.

Although there was no commencement speaker, Carter gave a few words of encouragement and apologized to the graduates for not being able to finish their senior year in a traditional manner.

“I am profoundly sorry for what you lost in those final weeks,” Carter said. “But I am appreciative for what you’ve gained. You’ve gained an enormous sense of confidence in yourself and your ability to absorb uncertainty and to keep your eyes on the prize.”

Graduates had already received their diplomas through the mail over the summer while the school was debating whether they would be able to hold  a commencement ceremony.

When they walked across the stage, Carter handed them a scroll that acknowledged them as the first class to graduate during a pandemic.

A lot of graduates said being able to walk across the stage gave them the closure they needed.

“I was happy that I would finally end this chapter in my life,” FMU graduate Aaron Simmons said.

Some of the graduates said they were discouraged when they heard there was a possibility that they wouldn’t be able to walk across the stage.

“When I first found out that we may not be walking, I thought it was unfair,” Simmons said. “We went through all these four years and it just ends like this.”

Simmon’s also said the end of the semester really affected their mood and their attitude.

“No one knew what was going on and the school wasn’t certain about what would happen either,” Simmons said. “The matter was completely out of our hands and that tested the strength of our mental health, but instead of caving in we stayed strong and made it through.”

Simmon’s mother, Yvette Simmons, said they had planned a lot of surprises and was hoping to make it a special moment for her son.

“Aaron had persevered through a lot this year and overcame his own personal obstacles and really made everyone proud,” Simmons said. “So when I found out that we would finally be able to celebrate him and all the other hard working graduates, I felt relieved.”

Many students said they were happy to be known as the first class to graduate during the pandemic.

“I mean, we got COVID degrees,” FMU graduate Angela Acosta said. “Who else can say they got COVID degrees?”

Acosta, like many other graduates, was also happy that her parents were able to celebrate the occasion with her.

Her father, Jose Acosta, said he had been looking forward to taking a selfie with his daughter at her graduation for four years.

“I’m glad I was finally able to get my graduation selfie with my daughter,” Acosta said. “I was scared that after four years of college I wouldn’t get it and that made me sad for her.”