GVSU Fall Class of 2021 recognized at in-person Commencement ceremonies

A stage with Grand Valley banners hanging over a blue curtain. A large crowd of graduates in graduation caps and gowns.
Image Credit: Tanner Hamilton

Grand Valley's academic leaders congratulated the nearly 1,400 Fall semester graduates who walked in the Commencement ceremonies on December 10-11. 

Students gathered in the Fieldhouse Arena on the Allendale Campus on Friday for the first in-person Commencement ceremony since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Chris Plouff began the celebration with an acknowledgement to students, faculty and staff for their hard work throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You continued to rise to the occasion throughout your studies, embraced an unprecedented set of circumstances over the past 20 months, and have completed your degree,” Plouff said during his welcome. 

A graduate shakes President Mantella's hand.
Valerie Hendrickson
A graduate hugs their supporters.
Valerie Hendrickson
Large crowd gathered in front of a stage.
Image Credit: Tanner Hamilton

After a video celebrating students’ perseverance, President Philomena V. Mantella offered a moment of silence for the victims of the Oxford shooting, pointing out that GVSU currently holds 82 graduates of Oxford High School.

Mantella continued the Commencement Address by thanking the Grand Valley community for coming together during these trying times. 

“Graduates, lastly and most importantly I want to thank you for making your mark on GV and exhibiting both resilience and excellence,” she said. “We are all joined together in this moment of celebration, we are joined by the experiences we have shared learning to live through COVID.”

President Mantella stands at a podium.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

She followed by sharing stories of student resilience from multiple students present at each ceremony. 

One of the students whose story the President shared was Ashley Savage, who has graduated after nine years of putting herself through college despite health complications, family tragedies and employment issues that forced her to pause her education multiple times. 

On Saturday she shared the story of student veteran David De Jong. De Jong said he was lost after serving in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan and decided to seek out a degree. He overcame his struggles, thanks to faculty and staff who guided him toward resources and offered him support to seek additional assistance. 

A graduate in a blue cap and gown wears a mask and poses for a photo.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

Mantella closed her speech telling graduates to “Be bold! Be driven! And be grateful to those around you who support you, make you stronger, and help you to define your special impact in the world a world that needs the best of you.”

After the president's remarks, Elise Endres, Tumaini Sango and graduate Alyssa Veldman performed “For Good,” from “Wicked the Musical” before Interim Provost Plouff conducted the Moving of the Tassel. 

Two graduates high five.
Image Credit: Valerie Hendrickson
A group poses with a graduate. They all hold cardboard cut outs of the graduate.
Amanda Pitts
A graduate celebrates while holding their diploma
Amanda Pitts

A virtual yearbook has been created for the class of 2021. Graduates can visit the Fall 2021 Digital Yearbook webpage here and answer prompts that will populate their page which can then be shared on social media.

DVDs of each Commencement ceremony can be purchased here.