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Commencement 2016 to follow outdoor tradition

Stetson University Commencement 2015 was held in the Edmunds Center.

Stetson University Commencement 2015, held in the Edmunds Center, had a full capacity crowd. Some guests had to be turned away.

There’s a special kind of love that can fill up a room, but the love for this year’s graduating seniors could fill up the Edmunds Center two times over.

In fact, Saturday, May 7, will bring together the largest number of graduates in Stetson’s 133-year history, exceeding expectations and capacity at the Edmunds Center.

To celebrate this milestone without limiting attendance, violating fire codes or turning people away at the door, Stetson University’s administrators have made a change many never saw coming: move it back outside.

This year Stetson will bring all graduate and undergraduate classes together in one community ceremony at Spec Martin Memorial Stadium, home field for Hatter football games. With a seating capacity of 6,000, it will hold all graduating students, their friends and family, faculty and staff. It is located at 260 E. Euclid Ave., DeLand, just blocks from Stetson’s campus.

(UPDATED Jan. 25) It is expected that the event will start around 8:30 a.m. and end between 11 and 11:30 a.m. Stetson chose to hold the event in the morning after checking on the weather for May 7 of the past several years. It was discovered that temperatures are cooler in the morning than at nighttime. The concession stands will be open and operated by DeLand High School Booster Club to serve light refreshments for purchase. Water will be available for free. As usual, limited seating will be available to accommodate those who cannot climb stairs. Tented, reserved seating with fans will be available for a limited number of guests who are most sensitive to the heat. To reserve a seat contact events@stetson.edu. In addition, the event will be live streamed in the Stetson Room for anyone who does not want to attend at the stadium.

Holding commencement outdoors is not unusual. Like many traditions, it is part of Stetson’s rich history.

The Forest of Arden, which was located in the area between Sampson Hall and what is now the duPont-Ball Library, years before Hand Art Center and the current library were built, was the original area of choice for the university’s commencement ceremonies. (The photo on the front page, courtesy of Stetson University Archives, shows Stetson’s 1960 Commencement held in the Forest of Arden.)

The setting under shady oak trees accommodated both graduates and their guests in hundreds of folding chairs. After several ceremonies, a stage was built for the official platform party. That stage is still part of the DeLand campus slightly behind the Hand Art Center and University Marketing.

“We look forward to hosting a beautiful commencement ceremony outside at Spec Martin Memorial Stadium,” said Julie Hunter, director of University Events at Stetson. “We are confident that the changes will enable the largest, safest assembly possible for this significant event in the lives of our students and their families and friends.”

Other traditional activities surrounding commencement will include the ROTC Commissioning Ceremony, scheduled for 10 a.m., Friday, May 6, the Undergraduate Awards and Recognition Ceremony, scheduled at 1 p.m., May 6, and the individual college and school receptions for which the plans are currently being finalized.

More information is available on the new Commencement 2016 website, and details on activities and locations for this year’s events will be updated as plans are confirmed.

For questions regarding Commencement 2016 activities, contact University Events at events@stetson.edu, or visit the FAQs on the website.

By Veronica Faison and staff