For the first time in its history, the University of Maine at Presque Isle will host a Virtual Commencement Ceremony as it aims to celebrate the achievements of its Class of 2020 despite a public health situation that precludes a large, in-person gathering. UMPI’s 111th Commencement Ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 9, 2020, at 10:30 a.m. on UMPI’s YouTube channel.

“While this isn’t the Commencement ceremony any of us anticipated, we are very much looking forward to the opportunity to gather, albeit virtually, to honor and recognize our graduates,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “Our charge has been to prepare for a virtual commencement as no ‘live, in-person’ commencements are able to take place in the University of Maine System, and our Commencement Committee has worked hard to ensure that we do have an alternate way to gather and celebrate this most important day for our graduating seniors in some very special ways.”

This year’s Commencement will feature shortened graduation speeches, the presentation of degrees accompanied by a slideshow featuring each of the graduates, and culminate in a distance-friendly tossing of the caps. Because students weren’t able to physically pick up their caps and gowns on campus as they have done in previous years, UMPI arranged for those items to be shipped to students’ homes. Members of the Class of 2020 are encouraged to don their regalia at home, tune in to the ceremony, host virtual watch parties with family and friends, and share their experiences on social media using #umpigrad2020.

Along with greetings from UMPI and University of Maine System officials, UMPI Student Commencement Speaker Evan Zarkadas will address the Class of 2020, and Larry Shaw, President and CEO of MMG Insurance, will deliver the commencement address.

Throughout his tenure, Shaw has been an outstanding advocate for workforce development, the strengthening of positive and mutually beneficial relationships between higher education and the business sector, as well as a great benefactor to Aroostook County, culturally as well as economically.

Shaw serves on the Board of Directors of Maine Early Learning Investment Group and the Farm Bureau of Michigan, the Advisory Board of the University of Southern Maine Risk Management and Insurance Program, and the Mark and Emily Turner Foundation Scholarship Committee. He is a past Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Maine Development Foundation, a past member of the Governor’s Financial Services Economic Development Group as well as UMPI’s Foundation Board and Board of Visitors, and served on the Maine Leadership Council for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. He is the recipient of the Maine CPCU’s Lee Allen President’s Award for Excellence, a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow, and was inducted into the Junior Achievement Maine Business Hall of Fame in 2015.

Shaw also serves as this year’s honorary degree recipient. He will formally receive his Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree and be hooded during next year’s Commencement Exercises.

In addition to these speakers and the traditional elements of a Commencement ceremony, this Commencement promises a few unexpected elements and surprises. There will also be an opportunity for graduates to take part in virtual gatherings with faculty, staff, and the Alumni Association via Zoom video after the ceremony. These gatherings will allow small groups to come together, share the excitement of the day with each other, and celebrate this year’s graduates.

Understanding that this event cannot replace a live graduation experience, the University is providing two other opportunities for the Class of 2020. There will be a Live Celebratory Event for 2020 graduates during Homecoming Weekend, Sept. 18-20, giving participants an opportunity to celebrate with the UMPI community, friends, and family during an official, in-person University event. Graduates are also invited to march in UMPI’s 2021 Commencement Exercises.

“We recognize that this is a graduating class that has experienced incredible dislocation and disruption, so we want each graduate to know that they are cared for and they are celebrated,” President Rice said. “We are incredibly proud of their efforts to persevere—they’ve shown incredible determination and resourcefulness and we know that, while these experiences have helped to shaped them, they will use them, in turn, to shape a better world.”

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