For many graduates who walked across the stage inside Cal State San Bernardino’s Coussoulis Arena this December, it was a long-awaited moment, as their original in-person commencement dates were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, more than 3,400 graduates from spring 2020, fall 2020 and spring 2021 registered to formally receive their in-person recognition in a series of make-up ceremonies on Dec. 9 and Dec. 10. In addition, nearly 1,300 students registered for the regularly scheduled fall 2021 commencement ceremony on Dec. 11.
“Graduates, you have every right to be proud of your accomplishment. You achieved the goal of earning your degree under some of the most difficult circumstances ever faced by a college class,” said CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales, noting the effect the global pandemic had on everyone and the drastic adjustments that were made. “This achievement should encourage and empower you. The majority of challenges we face in our lives are typically unforeseen and untimely. You have done far more than display the ability to face the unexpected; you have proven you can adapt, overcome and succeed.”
The first two make-up commencement ceremonies on Dec. 9 celebrated the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, with 774 registered participants. The remining three make-up ceremonies took place on Dec. 10, first celebrating the College of Education and the College of Arts and Letters with 482 registered participants; then the Jack. H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration with 464; followed by the College of Natural Sciences with 387.
Finally walking across the stage was a particularly special moment for psychology undergraduate Rhonda Crayton, who was supposed to attend the spring 2020 ceremony before it was postponed.
“It feels good because I have a personal struggle – I’ve been going to school full-time ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said, noting that her friends and family from New Orleans and Texas flew to California to watch her cross the stage. “They came to support – that’s what you need to get through something like this – stay positive, find something to give you a reason, a purpose to get up … College was my outlet. It saved my life, it truly did. So I am very humbled and grateful for Cal State San Bernardino.”
For criminal justice undergraduate and first-generation student Jonathan Williams, who was supposed to attend the spring 2021 ceremony, the moment he was looking forward to the most was seeing the joy on his parents’ faces and being a positive example for his sibling.
“It feels good, knowing that now my sister can follow,” he said.
“Congratulations, graduates! You now join the ranks of this country’s best and brightest,” Morales said to the graduates during the make-up ceremonies. “You previously received your degrees, but today you were able to walk across the stage and experience that accomplishment in person.”
CSUSB welcomed its fall 2021 graduates with three commencement ceremonies on Dec. 11. The first ceremony celebrated 236 graduates from the College of Arts and Letters and 304 from the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration; the second ceremony recognized 45 from the College of Education and 361 from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; and the final ceremony celebrated 328 from the College of Natural Sciences.
During the fall 2021 commencement ceremonies, CSUSB presented an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to: Jean Stephens ’91, global chief executive officer of the global firm RSM International Limited; Reginald and René Webb of Webb Enterprises and franchise owner-operators of McDonald’s restaurants; Randall W. Lewis, executive vice president for marketing with The Lewis Group of Companies; and Mohannad Malas, owner and CEO of Dana Investments and a cofounder of IRA Capital.
“For this next phase of your lives, I urge you to draw on the resilience you have gained along with what you have learned at CSUSB and use it for the betterment of everyone,” Morales said in his closing remarks. “Show concern, appreciation, respect and empathy. In a single word – CARE.”