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Exterior view of the Clay Pathfinder Building at Laramie County Community College at night with the moon. Courtesy

CHEYENNE – Laramie County Community College honored the roughly 650 members of its 49th graduating class with a virtual commencement ceremony this week.

“We were on track to be together today. Then, everything changed,” Joe Schaffer, president of the college, said during the ceremony, which was made available for viewing on the college’s website Wednesday.

Schaffer and the other faculty who spoke during the ceremony logged in from their homes and offices wearing traditional academic regalia.

“An invisible threat – a novel virus – has wreaked havoc on our lives. This global pandemic thrust upon the world has taken so much from us – our freedom, our certainty in our futures, our economic well being, and, for far too many, our loved ones,” Schaffer said.

“These historic times provide opportunities for leaders to emerge. We aren’t given the choice of what we are faced with in our lives, But we are given the ability to choose how we respond.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the community college – which is the largest in the state – and staff transitioned to remote learning for the rest of the semester, graduation plans remained unclear. Although the public K-12 schools in Laramie County are attempting modified, socially distant ceremonies, the college opted for an entirely remote ceremony, just like countless other institutions of higher learning, including the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University.

The hour-long online ceremony featured a slideshow containing a photograph and information about each graduate, much like a physical program would.

It’s undecided if the college will attempt to hold an in-person ceremony at a later date. According to a press release sent out by the college earlier this month, campus officials “will determine the viability” of that at a later date.

“Although we are not physically together, the joy of this day is very real,” said Melissa Stutz, vice president of student services. “We desperately want to celebrate with you in person, but we know how important it is to acknowledge and honor this accomplishment of achieving your educational goal. That will remain with you forever, and no one can take it away.”

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, who delivered the commencement address, praised graduates for persevering through the uncertainty of the last few months.

“The fact that I’m addressing you online, in a video, means you are unique. The graduating class of 2020 is like none other,” Gordon said. “Your world was turned upside down. … You’re graduating under circumstances we have never seen before. … You adapted, struggled and persevered.”

Andrew Herschberger, president of the student government, reminded his classmates how their entire LCCC experience – not just the months consumed by talk of COVID-19 – shaped them into the graduates they are.

“Your journey doesn’t end here,” he said. “Your drive will continue. Except this time, it will be away from LCCC.”

Kathryn Palmer is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s education reporter. She can be reached at kpalmer@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynbpalmer.

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