Commencement postponed because of COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic caused Westmont College to postpone its commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020, though the college is planning on celebrating graduates at some point in the near future.
While official plans have not been finalized, the Christian college is examining several options, according to Scott Craig, manager of media relations for Westmont.
“Westmont will celebrate its graduates when we are able,” Mr. Craig told the News-Press in an email. “Not a question of if but when. Currently we are looking at Homecoming weekend in October.”
The graduation ceremony was scheduled for earlier this month, and the cancellation caused the college to get creative to recognize its senior class. On May 2, the college hosted a virtual concert featuring popular Christian recording artists Phil Wickham and Grammy award-winning artist Lecrae.
In the 40-minute video, Westmont President Gayle Beebe is seen at Kerwood Lawn, where the students would have gathered to begin the processional for commencement.
“This is really just to honor and celebrate you as you graduate, but it’s also an opportunity to invite the entire Westmont family,” Dr. Beebe said. “If we were processing in the Golden Warriors — the class celebrating its 50th reunion — would be here.
“There’s always Warriors that are even older than the 50th class, and then of course we’re also celebrating the addition of our newest Westmont Warriors, the incoming class that will start this fall. We just want to pray for you, hope for you and look forward to welcoming you back to campus. Until then, stay safe and may God be with you.”
Mr. Wickham, who won a Gospel Music Association Dove Award in 2019 for his song “Living Hope,” was first to perform for the Class of 2020. He congratulated the graduating seniors for their accomplishments and offered condolences regarding the postponement of the ceremony.
“Obviously this finish line looks way different than what you guys expected, so I’m sorry. I really am sorry for all you seniors who looked forward to this day for years,” he said. “You looked forward to the day when you got that diploma, your name is called, everybody — your family and your friends — the whole room got up and cheered, people were clapping. That’s what you expected, that’s what you deserved and so this is looking different this year and we’re all aware of that. We’re sorry for that, but also you are not going to go uncelebrated. This is for you.”
Speaking in a recording studio, Mr. Wickham added, “We are in this together, fighting the good fight together and loving on each other together and celebrating what these seniors at Westmont have done. Even in the midst of grief, there can be joy. Even in the midst of being lost and expectations being demolished, we can still have joy and we can still say thank you and still say we trust Jesus.”
The video also included excerpts from students George Mathen and Madi Cleek, as well as Student Body President Nolan Anderson. Mr. Mathen and Ms. Cleek practiced moving their tassels from right to left, while Mr. Anderson thanked his fellow graduates for the memories during their time at Westmont.
“Thank you for all the fun, the laughter and the times together, but most importantly thank you for the love and support you’ve not only shown me, but we’ve shown each other,” he said.
Christian rap artist Lecrae also addressed the audience, sporting a Westmont baseball cap, and encouraged the students to remain true to their faith during such a challenging time around the globe.
“As Westmont grads, if there’s ever a time the world needs you it is now. So go out with audacious dreams, big hearts to change the world for Christ,” he said. “You guys have got this. You’re gifted with the talents that God has given you, so take it to the next level, alright?
“You guys are Warriors through and through. Be resilient and go out there and show what Christ followers can do. Go out there and make a difference.”
As the college noted on its website, the virtual event honored the Class of 2020 and marked an end to a challenging semester for all Westmont students.
The graduating class endured a number of hardships during their time on campus, including the Thomas Fire, Montecito debris flow and now the COVID-19 pandemic. The college is expected to announce official graduation plans in the near future.