Kirkwood cancels commencement, joins other colleges in suspending spring ceremonies

Campuses patch together alternatives

Nearly 2000 graduates file in for the 50th commencement ceremony of Kirkwood Community College at the U.S. Cellular Cent
Nearly 2000 graduates file in for the 50th commencement ceremony of Kirkwood Community College at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, May 14, 2016. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Kirkwood Community College on Wednesday followed their collegiate and university peers across the state and canceled this spring’s in-person commencement ceremony due to the novel coronavirus that has upended daily life across Iowa, the nation, and the world.

All three of Iowa’s public universities last week canceled graduation ceremonies, as did most — if not all — area private colleges and universities, including Coe College, Mount Mercy University, and Cornell College.

Most campuses are percolating ideas of ways to celebrate the thousands of graduates earning degrees across their respective campuses — with some inviting them to walk in the next commencement ceremony, promising online congratulatory messages, or evening hosting virtual ceremonies.

That latter option is the route Kirkwood is taking, announcing in its cancellation message Wednesday that the college “is planning on holding an online virtual commencement ceremony to celebrate the achievements of the 2020 graduates.”

More details on that ceremony will come soon, according to the Kirkwood announcement.

Other campus’ either considering virtual ceremonies this May — or planning them — include Cornell, Mount Mercy, and Iowa State University. In a recent message, ISU President Wendy Wintersteen noted her campus will persist in planning an in-person commencement at a later date and, in the meantime, “may also coordinate a virtual celebration at the end of this academic year.”

“Campus leaders are working on plans for a livestreamed graduation address in May,” according to an ISU message.

The cancellations have come early in that many students’ family members make travel plans months ahead of time, and with COVID-19 continuing to spread locally and nationally.


Some students, though, already took graduation-related steps they now need to rewind — including those who bought caps and gowns. Kirkwood on Wednesday spelled out steps for returning those items — if they don’t want to keep them to participate in a later commencement ceremony.

The graduation cancellations cap the essential vacation of Iowa’s college campuses this spring — with most ending in-person instruction for the semester and moving all curriculum online.

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