May is a month full of so much celebrating, and we want to continue extending the celebration of our fantastic High Point University Class of 2021! After a very challenging year, HPU’s Class of 2021 stood proudly last Saturday on Mother’s Day weekend to accept their diplomas – in person. While university and college students around the country had to accept their diplomas virtually or in commencements consisting of just a few hundred people, our city’s university outshined the rest by making sure that HPU grads could receive the commencement day they earned!
But to make this happen, a lot of people had to work together to strategize an event that would celebrate the students and keep guests safe. After all, did you know HPU brought in more than 10,000 guests to our city for commencement ceremonies? That means the University brought in 10,000 guests to support our local businesses and discover our beautiful city. Melody Burnett, President of Visit High Point, shared that over the course of Commencement weekend,
HPU guests generated around $3.5 million for our city. Not to mention selling out eight hotels and instantly boosting activity and profits for High Point restaurants.
“Each year HPU attracts more than 100,000 visitors to our city through prospective student tours, family and alumni weekends, athletic events, cultural enrichment productions, and presentations from world-renowned speakers,” explains Lyndsey Ayers, Director of Community Partnerships at HPU. “Parents of students feel comforted knowing they will leave their child in a city where they are embraced, supported, and encouraged, and students feel connected when they frequent their favorite restaurant or retailer and see HPU represented.
“They know they have the support of their HPU family on campus, but it is just as important that they feel the support of the entire community… During Commencement weekend, hundreds of local businesses displayed HPU signage, which provided a warm welcome to our guests traveling to High Point for the ceremonies.”
So how do you keep 10,000 guests safe? The folks at HPU have it figured out! The first order of business was moving the graduation ceremony from its traditional location in front of Roberts Hall to HPU’s Innovation Corridor. The outdoor seating was arranged so that each seating section consisted of six seats – guaranteeing that each graduate’s guest list of six people could socially distance from other families and guests. Not to mention, complimentary HPU reusable masks were provided to each guest to ensure everyone had the required face coverings.
Students remained socially distant as HPU President, Dr. Nido Qubein, conferred all 1,178 degrees on May 8. To top it all off, the seal in front of Roberts Hall that students traditionally walk over after receiving their diploma was replicated and place in the Innovation Corridor so students could uphold the Panther tradition.
“We were determined to safely create a way for us all to celebrate together,” Dr. Qubein shared at Commencement. “Remember, graduates, when I shared with you in the President’s Seminar on Life Skills this important insight: There are no such things as unrealistic dreams. There are only unrealistic timelines. Believe that in your heart because, today, here we are.”
Not only did High Point University create a safe way to honor the 2021 graduates, but HPU’s Class of 2020 was also able to enjoy their much-deserved graduation day that they missed last year. While the 2020 degrees were conferred virtually last year, 1,169 students’ degrees were conferred in-person during a special celebration of their class on Friday, May 7, along with the master’s and doctoral degrees.
Unlike many other schools who were forced to have their commencement speaker appear virtually, HPU welcomed Cynthia “Cynt” Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks and the first Black female CEO in the NBA. Cynt is also the Sports Executive in Residence at HPU and has led many HPU students into sought-after externships at the NBA level.
“Graduates, most of you represent the year of perfect vision, 2020,” she said in her Commencement address to the Class of 2020. “By the time you left HPU last year, a few things were clear: the world had changed, some of your school and job plans had to be put on hold, and you were going to have to be agile. Many things have come sharply into focus over the last 14 months. But today, Class of Perfect Vision, I hope you can see how much we love you, how much we admire your resilience, how thankful we are that you returned today, and how proud we are of you. Class of 2020, we see you!”
To the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, we echo the words of Cynt Marshall when we say, we see you, and we want to extend a huge congratulations. High Point Discovered sees you and the contributions you’ve made to your university and our city, and our community wouldn’t be the same without you!
Discover our High Points,
The HPD Team
Images Courtesy of High Point University