The 2020-21 school year was different from any other in the history of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, so it was fitting that it concluded with commencement ceremonies as unique as the times in which they were held.
CSB’s graduation ceremony was held Saturday, May 15, and the SJU graduation ceremony followed on Sunday, May 16, both under sunny skies at Clemens Stadium on the Saint John’s campus.
It marked the first time graduation ceremonies have been held on SJU’s football field since 1961. The Abbey Church was consecrated later that year and SJU graduation ceremonies have been held there ever since.
CSB ceremonies have been held at the Clemens Fieldhouse since 1996. Prior to that, they were held in the Benedicta Arts Center dating back to the mid-1960s.
This year’s graduates wore their traditional caps and gowns, and – in keeping with safety measures that have been in place since March 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – masks as well. Neither school held an in-person ceremony last year due to the pandemic.
This year’s graduates were allowed two guests and proper social distancing requirements remained in effect. Hundreds more had the opportunity to view the proceedings via livestreaming.
In an effort to keep the agenda shorter, CSB opted not to have a commencement speaker. The president’s greeting was provided by CSB interim president Laurie Hamen, J.D. The senior speaker was Derica Ferguson, an accounting major from Nassau, Bahamas.
At SJU, the president’s greeting was provided by interim president Dr. Eugene McAllister. The senior speaker was Simeon Farquharson, an accounting/finance major from Nassau, Bahamas.
Saint John’s commencement speaker was Gen. Paul Nakasone ’86, who also was presented an honorary degree. The four-star general and White Bear Lake (Minnesota) native is currently serving as Commander, U.S. Cyber Command and Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service.
Nakasone, who was scheduled to be SJU’s 2020 commencement speaker before the ceremony was cancelled, told graduates it was good to finally be with them in-person.
“It took an extra year, a year that has tested most of us in ways we never anticipated,” he said before going on to praise the resilience the 2021 graduating class and the rest of the CSB/SJU community showed in the face of pandemic challenges.
“We’re all more deeply aware of how special it truly is to gather together in celebration to share this moment with others.”
Nakasone told graduates not to be deterred by the tumult and uncertainty of the past 14 months.
“Be brave enough to build something,” he said. “It may seem like you’re heading out into a stormy world. Start anyway. Build something that takes more than a day or a year or even 10 years.
“Most of the things that are truly worth something in this world – strong relationships, a rewarding career, even meaningful hobbies – take time and effort.”
Here is a bit more on this year’s graduating class at CSB/SJU:
- A total of 449 students were eligible for graduation at CSB, 374 students at SJU and 29 from the Saint John’s School of Theology.
- The top five majors in this year’s senior class at CSB were (in order): psychology, nursing, biology, elementary education and accounting. The top five majors in this year’s senior class at SJU were (in order): global business leadership, accounting, computer science, communication and economics.