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Iowa Central class of 2020 graduates virtually

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Rusty McNeil, program coordinator and instructor for TV and radio production at Iowa Central Community College, left, sits next to students Taylor Potter and Clint Boevers inside the broadcast trailer on the main campus of Iowa Central Friday evening. The crew helped broadcast a virtual graduation ceremony for the college.

About 650 graduates formally ended their school career at Iowa Central Community College during a commencement ceremony Friday evening.

They were dressed in the traditional caps and gowns. The band played the time-honored graduation music. There were speeches.

But no one walked across the stage to receive their diploma.

That’s because none of the graduates or speakers were actually on the Fort Dodge campus.

The commencement ceremony for the Iowa Central class of 2020 was a virtual graduation created because the social distancing guidelines necessary to fight the COVID-19 pandemic made a traditional, in-person graduation impossible.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Rusty McNeil, program coordinator and instructor for the TV and radio program at Iowa Central Community College, left, and Clint Boevers, a student in the program, make final preparations for the broadcast of Iowa Central’s virtual graduation Friday evening.

All the elements of Friday night’s ceremony were prerecorded and combined before being broadcast on the college’s website.

”It’s not what we wanted to do, but in light of what happened, it’s what we had to do,” said college President Dan Kinney.

”We wanted to make sure we celebrated our students and their accomplishments,” he said.

The planning for the virtual graduation began in late March. A team of faculty and staff members led by college Registrar Courtney Kopp developed the program.

”That team did a tremendous job,” Kinney said. ”All credit goes to them.”

-Submitted photo
Dr. Dan Kinney, president of Iowa Central Community College, speaks at the virtual graduation ceremony Friday evening. Kinney said he’s willing to don his gown again to pose for photos with 2020 graduates when it’s safe to do so.

When the virtual ceremony was first announced, it was met with mixed emotions by the soon-to-be graduates, according to Kinney.

”There were a lot that were disappointed because they’ve worked so hard, but they were relieved that they were going to get an opportunity to be celebrated,” he said.

Graduates received their caps and gowns well before the ceremony. They were asked to have a photo taken of themselves in their graduation attire and send that photo to the college.

The music and speeches were recorded in advance.

Those speakers included William Thatcher, a Fort Dodge attorney; Macy Wunschel, of Holstein, who was the vice president of the Student Senate; Brooklin Border, of Fort Dodge, a member of the All-Iowa Academic Team; Mark Crimmins, president of the college’s Board of Trustees; and Kinney.

The college’s TV and radio production department brought all of those elements together into one program that debuted at 7 p.m. Friday.

As the name of each graduate was read, the photo they submitted of themselves in cap and gown was displayed on the screen.

Kinney said 655 graduates participated in the ceremony. The class of 2020 consists of 1,047 people.

Diplomas and graduation programs will be mailed to the graduates.

Kinney said that when it is safe to do so, he wants to shake hands with every member of the graduating class. He said he is willing to don his own cap and gown to pose for photos with the graduates.

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