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ANDERSON — Like many other organizations whose events have been on hold over the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, local colleges and universities are opening up and planning in-person commencements ceremonies.

Anderson University, Ivy Tech Community College-Anderson and Purdue Polytechnic Anderson have announced plans for in-person ceremonies.

AU’s commencement will take place 2 p.m. May 8 at Kardaztke Wellness Center. AU board of trustees member the Rev. Rodney K. Stafford, senior pastor at Fairfax Community Church in Virginia, will deliver the keynote address.

“I’m excited for our seniors and their families to participate in Commencement in person this year — in May, no less,” said AU President John S. Pistole. Last year’s ceremony was postponed till October because of the pandemic, which started in March.

“These students have persevered through uncharted waters and we celebrate with them as they head out into the world to share the love of Christ wherever they go,” he said.

However, due to the pandemic and COVID-19 guidelines, graduation candidates are permitted to invite four guests to attend the ceremony in person. Seating will be arranged to accommodate social distancing, and masks will be required. In addition, those in attendance are encouraged to seek a COVID-19 test prior to the ceremony to help ensure the health and safety of all in attendance.

Ivy Tech will host four ceremonies with 30 graduates each at 10 and 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Saturday, May 15, in the Rickers Commons Area. Each ceremony will be live streamed so families and friends can watch either on a jumbo screen on the campus parking lot or on a device wherever they are.

Ivy Tech Chancellor Mia Johnson said offering a safe return to in-person ceremonies is important because it celebrates students’ hard work.

“So many of our students have had to overcome several obstacles in order to earn their degree, and we want to recognize them as close as possible to a ‘normal’ commencement as we can,” she said. “Second, these small, in-person ceremonies are a step in the right direction towards returning not only back to campus but also back to many other activities we enjoy gathering for – just with a twist for now.”

Purdue Polytechnic’s 14 graduation candidates will participate in an in-person ceremony outside 6 p.m. Friday, May 7, at the Dickmann Town Center. Purdue Polytechnic Anderson Director Corey Sharp said the campus partnered with the city and the Parks Department to make the event, which will be ticketed for family members, happen.

“We look forward to celebrating our students’ graduation at such a beautiful venue,” he said. “We must celebrate our students’ achievements especially after a challenging year.”

Purdue University provided a fairly simple plan to implement, Sharp said.

“Purdue provided each location a pretty extensive set of COVID-19 guidelines and precautions for our commencement,” he said.

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.

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