NACOGDOCHES, TEXAS — As students across the nation adjust to the altered academic landscape, students at Stephen F. Austin State University are preparing to attend a virtual commencement May 30, which is designed to celebrate their achievements in spite of the challenges faced this semester due to the impact of COVID-19.
Through a series of videos, students will have access to the commencement address by SFA alumnus Michael Calbert, chairman of the board of Dollar General; and addresses by SFA President Dr. Scott Gordon; Dr. Steve Bullard, provost and vice president for academic affairs; and Craig Turnage, executive director of alumni relations, as well as a version of the school song created with video clips submitted by many of the graduating students.
Calbert, a 1984 SFA accounting graduate and East Texas native, worked as an auditor at Arthur Andersen and later joined U.S.-based private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Co. before retiring in 2014. In addition to Dollar General, he also serves on other corporate boards.
SFA graduate Annemarie Price said she plans to celebrate the day with a personal touch. Price, a marketing major from Katy, will have two very special guests in attendance — her dogs Astro and Travis dressed for the occasion in suits and ties — as she accepts her diploma at home from her parents. While it’s not exactly the celebration she had planned with friends from around the state gathered at Johnson Coliseum to watch her walk the stage, it’s enough for now.
“When I found out graduations were being canceled, it was important for me to redirect my focus on what I could control, what was truly important and what I could look forward to during this crisis,” Price said. “The class of 2020 won’t get the typical walk across the stage right now, but we will each have a unique celebration, which we will not easily forget.”
Other students are planning on simple celebrations with immediate family.
“My plan for graduation is to dress in a cap and gown and walk across my house as if it were a stage,” said Rachel Ballback, health science major from The Woodlands, who was named Miss SFA in March. “Even though I imagined the day to be much different, I am grateful SFA is offering an alternative.”
Price offered congratulations to her fellow graduates for persevering through an unprecedented situation.
“You have adapted and overcome in unexpected and unpredictable circumstances,” she said. “You should be proud of what you have accomplished.”
Degrees to be awarded include 1,188 bachelor’s, 294 master’s and two doctoral degrees. More than 468 students will graduate with honors, including 155 cum laude, 152 magna cum laude and 152 summa cum laude. Seventy-nine will graduate with the university scholar designation.
The ceremony will be available to view beginning at 6 a.m. May 30 at sfasu.edu/commencement.