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May 11, 2017

Staff, Faculty Help Put on Personal Graduation Ceremonies

Starting a new tradition, Pitt held two commencement ceremonies this year. The new format offered students and their families a more personal and engaging graduation experience that included having each of the undergraduate and professional degree recipients’ names read aloud as they accept their diplomas.

Faculty and staff members helped with a wide variety  of behind-the-scenes duties to ensure both ceremonies ran smoothly from start to finish. Some assisted graduates with their caps, gowns and cords as they waited beneath the main floor of the Petersen Events Center. Others confirmed the pronunciation of names for when graduates walked across the stage and received their diplomas. Still others guided grads onto the floor as the ceremonies began.

Nearly 2,000 master’s, professional doctoral and doctoral degrees were conferred on Saturday, April 29 during the graduate commencement ceremony. On Sunday, April 30, more than 3,500 were honored in undergraduate commencement convocation.

Below are scenes from both ceremonies. For more social media coverage from the commencement weekend, visit Commencement 2017.

Jason Pickel and Daniel Cole

Jason Pickel (left) stands with his mentor, Daniel Cole, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, before graduating with a PhD from the Swanson School of Engineering on Saturday. Pickel will be a postdoc under Cole’s supervision after graduation. Cole joked that Pickel has studied for his degree since 1787, the year of the University’s founding.


School of Information Sciences staff members

As the School of Information Science’s soon-to-be graduates enter the floor of the Petersen Events Center for the first-ever graduate student commencement, a cadre of supporters rises in their honor. From left to right are SIS staff members Kelly Shaffer (A&S ’86), PhD student Yu Chi, staffer Sung-Min Kim (SIS ’04, SIS ’15G) and PhD student Chun Hua Tsai. “We’re here to support our team,” Shaffer said. “I think it’s really great that Pitt did this.”


Friends and graduates jump in the air and throw their caps

Friends from the School of Information Sciences and Swanson School of Engineering celebrate at the Class of 2017 Graduate Ceremony reception outside the Pete.


Eva Tansky Blum, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Larry Merlo, Patricia Beeson, Arthur Levine.

Larry J. Merlo (center), president and CEO of CVS Health and a University trustee, addressed Pitt master’s, professional doctoral and doctoral students at the graduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, April 29. Merlo was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree. From left are Eva Tansky Blum, chair, Board of Trustees; Chancellor Patrick Gallagher; Merlo; Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia Beeson; and Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean, School of Medicine, Arthur Levine.


Alicia Craig, Mat Romick and Kellie Kane

Among the first to enter the Petersen Events Center floor at the undergraduate commencement ceremony on Sunday, April 30 was class marshal Alicia Craig of Wisconsin, who graduated with a bachelor’s in business administration, with marshals Mat Romick (BUS ’00), a staff member in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences dean’s office, and Kellie Kane (A&S ’99, BUS ’04G), Pitt’s director of admissions.


Chancellor Patrick Gallagher speaking at commencement

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher addresses the Class of 2017 at the Undergraduate Ceremony at the Petersen Events Center.


S. Epatha Merkerson speaks at undergraduate commencement

Actor, producer and director S. Epatha Merkerson, the featured speaker at the Undergraduate Ceremony, addresses the Class of 2017 as Chancellor Patrick Gallagher looks on. She told a story about her mother skydiving in her 80s and encouraged students to “jump out of the plane” and to get out of their comfort zones.


Class of 2017 celebrating at the closing of commencement.

You did it, Class of 2017! Confetti and streamers fall from the rafters of the Petersen Events Center at the conclusion of the commencement ceremony as Pitt welcomes its newest group of alumni.

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