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Columbus State University

May 14, 2020 - A Message from President Markwood

Photo of students at commencement ceremony

Please indulge me with this afternoon’s message. It will be a bit different from the usual updates.

Today has been the definition of bittersweet. In years past, I would have awoken this morning with one foot on the floor and one arm already reaching into the closet for my cap and gown, wide awake from excitement and pride. Under normal circumstances, the Graduate Hooding Ceremony would have been held this evening, kicking off our 2020 Commencement Celebrations.

Alas, we are temporarily operating in world bereft of normalcy, doing our best to make the most of a situation in which the only things we can truly control are our own actions and attitudes. That so many of our students are receiving their degrees this weekend is a testament to the determination, efficacy, and creativity of the young minds that hold the future in their hands.

I thought of our students this morning, as I looked at my gown, dusted my tam, straightened my tassel, performing what has over the years become somewhat of a ritual. And as it happens every year, this ritual inspection turned to introspection. This will be my 26th year of commencement ceremonies and graduations and my fifth year as a president. Commencement is, by far, the most rewarding aspect of being the president of a university.

I know many of our faculty and staff feel the same as I do, that after all these years, I still get so much joy from these days. It is still vivid in my mind - watching families and friends walk into the Lumpkin Center, searching for seats, the air inside is electric with excitement and anticipation; seeing the faculty adorned with their regalia; smiling as the students are ushered in, riding a wave of anxiety, elation, and eagerness for the next adventure to begin.

But nothing compares to the moment the first student hears their name and begins to walk across the stage to receive their diploma tube, greeted by their dean and the provost and then makes their way to shake my hand. Because then it has well and truly begun. It is an unparalleled honor to wish every graduate from Columbus State University my heartfelt “congratulations.”

It is a remarkable feeling, even with all of the sweaty palms, and I have the pleasure of experiencing it twice a year, every year.

Until today.

In thinking about our students this morning, their cap and gown order was likely refunded. I’ll be online conferring their degrees today at 3:00. They will be celebrating somewhere else. We will have accomplished so much together; yet we will finish this part of the journey apart.

There’s a first time for everything, an exception to every rule, sometimes life isn’t fair, it is what it is. There are no shortage of platitudes we could wield to shield ourselves from disappointment. But Cougars don’t speak in platitudes. Cougars roar.

To our students I say you are a special class. Incredibly so. There has never been a class like yours and we pray there will never be another. Think about that. Think about your journey. The all-night study sessions, the early morning exams; the labs; 20-page research papers; the creative works; and virtuoso performances; the senior projects and exit exams; all the years of hard work you put into your degree, and then, with the end in sight, the board flipped, the rules were modified, the landscaped changed… and still you prevailed.

You are ready.

It won’t be easy, but you are ready. You are ready to compete for a career. You are ready to continue your studies. You are ready to change this world, to make it a better, healthier, safer place to live. You are ready for whatever comes next.

You are ready. And we can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.

To our incredible faculty members, I thank you for implementing the impossible in taking all classes online in the middle of the semester. Your perseverance, competence, creativity, and compassion are the driving force behind the success of this graduating class.

I also thank the team at COOL for making the impossible possible. What we asked of you was unprecedented. What you delivered was extraordinary.

And to our staff, you are the epitome of our core values - excellence, engagement, creativity, Servant Leadership, inclusion, and sustainability - and your work throughout this pandemic has been an inspiration.

This weekend is a mere marker, a moment to recognize the achievements of those graduating in 2020. This is not your graduation though. We wouldn’t let such a special class pass through our gateways without the pomp and circumstance you so deserve. We will host an in-person graduation ceremony for you in August 2020. Should circumstances discourage such a gathering at that time, we will then reschedule during the December commencement program.

One way or another, no matter how long it takes, one day, you are going to walk across the stage at the Lumpkin Center, “receive” your degree, and your Cougar Family will let you know how proud of you we are.

Because, with all that is going on in the world right now, I could not be prouder.

To all of you, thank you for what you do for our students, our community, and each other.

Dr. Markwood's Signature

President Chris Markwood