USM Celebrates Graduates with Socially Distanced but Tradition-Packed Ceremonies

The University of Saint Mary class of 2021 would not let the challenges of their final two years at USM define them.

When USM transitioned to remote classes in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, students logged in and listened up. When Spires returned to campus in fall 2020, they faced new and ever-changing guidelines in the classroom, in the residence halls, and on the field.

College life looked different in their final three semesters, but the class of 2021 persevered.

The Saint Mary community celebrated their accomplishments and resilience with two socially distanced Commencement ceremonies on May 15 in McGilley Field House on the Leavenworth campus.

A morning ceremony honored graduates from USM’s Division of Health Sciences, Division of Nursing, and the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The afternoon ceremony celebrated graduates from the Division of Business and Information Technologies, the Division of Liberal Arts and Humanities, and the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

The graduating class was composed of 251 students: 153 undergraduates, 56 master’s degree recipients, and 42 Doctor of Physical Therapy students.

The 2021 graduates also participated in USM’s other end-of-year traditions, including Convocation and Hooding, pinning ceremonies for nursing and physical therapy students, and a Baccalaureate Liturgy.

The graduates represent a wide variety of backgrounds and are bound for bright futures.

Vivian Owens, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing student, represents the resilience of the graduating class. She not only excelled in the BSN program during the COVID-19 pandemic but also balanced being a mother of eight.

Students from the class of 2021 also earned state, regional, and national awards, including Keisha Harris and Stephanie Reichenberger, who were named Teachers of Promise by the Kansas State Department of Education. Harris and Reichenberger have already signed contracts for full-time teaching positions.

Many other students have secured job placements or been accepted into graduate school. Medical laboratory science major Korian Runyan will begin working for North Kansas City Hospital, and Justin Kearney, a history and political science major, will attend law school in the fall.

“The University of Saint Mary extends our deepest congratulations to the class of 2021,” University President Sister Diane Steele said. “We pray that their Saint Mary education has taught them to seek truth, live justly, and see the glory of God in all that surrounds them.”

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