Program News - Summer 2021

I am very pleased to share with you news that we were able to gather in-person this past May to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates of the Classes of 2020 and 2021. As many of you know, last year all in-person commencement ceremonies had to be cancelled as a result of COVID-19. For our 2020 graduates, last May we held a virtual “gift-giving” ceremony via Zoom. Our plan, of course, was to have an in-person ceremony as soon as it was once again safe to do so. Thankfully, there were options this year for in-person gatherings, as long as they were conducted in compliance with State and University health-safety guidelines.

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As part of the planning process for commencement ceremonies this year, our program applied for permission to have an in-person ceremony for our graduates and their families. To make this happen, it would be necessary for us to hold the ceremony outdoors. In meeting with students and faculty members to discuss ideas for our ceremony, we were all in agreement that if it could happen, we would very much like to hold our ceremony at Lakewood Cemetery. I reached out to Lakewood President (and Program of Mortuary Science Advisory Board member) Chris Makowske, to discuss our desire to hold our commencement ceremony at Lakewood. Chris was most receptive to our request, and he worked with his Board to ensure that we might access to the lawn space in front of the Memorial Mausoleum, and also the Historic Chapel, for our special event.

As a result of all our planning work, we had an commencement ceremony experience unlike any other in our Program’s history! The Memorial Mausoleum served as an ideal background for our ceremony. The weather was picture-perfect, and the numerous trees that surround the Mausoleum just happened to be sprouting maroon and gold blossoms. Mother Nature could not have been more cooperative! Graduates’ family members and friends brought chairs and set them up in the lawn space that surrounds the reflecting pool. And as fate would have it, the mandatory masking requirement expired just three hours before the start of the ceremony, meaning that graduates could process without a mask if they felt comfortable doing so. Everyone was together, the weather was perfect, and we were able to celebrate graduation at one of the most beautiful memorial spaces in Minnesota.

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Prior to the start of the ceremony, our graduates had their photos taken by MFDA Past President at photographer extraordinaire Ken Peterson, both inside and in front of the Historic Chapel. Local harpist Rachel Brandwein provided half an hour of harp music as our prelude during the time of gathering. At 3:00 PM sharp, our graduates, faculty, and Regent McMillan gathered in front of the chapel, and with Michael Breidenbach playing bagpipes and Hunter Gullickson on drums to lead us, we solemnly processed the length of the greenway, along the reflecting pool, to our seats in front the Memorial Mausoleum.

Our ceremony included a number of personal greetings and messages of congratulations to our graduates, invited guests, and special honorees. To start the ceremony, Chris Makowske warmly welcomed us all on behalf of Lakewood Cemetery and its Board of Directors. Judge Doug Meslow spoke on behalf of the faculty, and graduates Grace Hartley (Co-President, Class of 2020) and Cristina Cherubini (President, Class of 2021) spoke on behalf of their graduating classes. Teaching Specialist Carrie McGhee announced the Preceptor of the Year Awards, as selected by our students, to Jordan Seitz (2020) and Anne Christ (2021). Both Jordan and Anne were presented with plaques by Carrie in honor of their service to the University, and their work mentoring our students. Graduates who were recipients of Program Scholarships were announced and invited to come forward to receive framed certificates noting their awards and accomplishments. MFDA Executive Director Darlyne Erickson presented a special MFDA Award of Merit scholarship to a graduate from each class. The Program honored Bill and Kay McReavy as recipients of 2021 University of Minnesota Regents Award, and also Tom Anderson, for his six-year term of service as member of the Board of Regents. We are grateful that Bill and Kay and their family, and also Tom and his wife Angie, could be present for the ceremony. During the Conferring of the Degrees, faculty member Michael Mathews presented graduates with maroon and gold roses in honor of their achievements. The ceremony concluded with a message of gratitude to all those who helped to make this very special day possible for us all.

We are now looking forward to the start of fall semester courses, which will resume on campus in early September. We are so excited to be returning to campus so that we might once again gather in-person and teach in our classroom spaces. Despite the heatwave we are experiencing at the time of the writing, we know that soon gopher games, tailgating parties, and festive gatherings on campus will once again be back in full swing. We want to thank everyone who has supported our program and students during the pandemic in our work with remote learning. We all came together to support one another during these challenging times in the true spirit of Gopher Pride, and we are the stronger for it! Here’s to being together again in the coming months! Ski-U-Mah!

Michael LuBrant
Program Director