Hundreds Gather at Salem State for Drive-By Commencement Celebration

The student-organized drive-by celebration was followed by a virtual conferral of degrees as the university works to reschedule the Class of 2020’s commencement.

SALEM – A student-organized Drive-by Commencement Celebration brought cheers, honks, and decorated cars to Salem State’s O’Keefe parking lot on Saturday, May 16, where students and their families lined up in cars for the start of a celebratory drive around campus. About 100 cars holding about 300 people took part in the procession as approximately 40 Salem State faculty, staff, and administrators – including President John Keenan – spread out in their masks and cheered on the Class of 2020.

The event was organized by 2020 business administration graduate Marc Centrella, of Everett, and it involved collaboration with Salem State’s university police and the Salem Police Department. It was followed by a brief online conferral of degrees as a way to officially recognize graduates’ success while the university works to reschedule the Class of 2020’s commencement.

“No matter what life throws at you, there’s always a way to find moments of light and joy,” said Centrella. “With everything going on in the world, we made something great out of nothing. We made it and we did it as one. Congratulations to the Class of 2020!”

“This drive-by celebration showed that the spirit of commencement cannot be dampened,” said Keenan, who donned an appropriate orange mask at the event. “The class of 2020 has shown tremendous resilience, and it’s no surprise that they found a safe and creative way to come together on what would have been our undergraduate commencement day. It was an honor to be there to cheer them on.”

The university arranged for students to pick up their caps and gowns the week before the virtual conferral of degrees, while keeping masks and social distancing guidelines in place. As the university works to reschedule this year’s commencement, celebratory videos and emails have been shared with students.

The more than 2,000 graduates in the Class of 2020 include about 1,600 undergraduates and nearly 600 graduates receiving master’s degrees or certificates of advanced graduate studies. Graduates represent 32 countries and 23 states. This year, 279 students are becoming Double Vikings by receiving their second Salem State degree.

Salem State University, established in 1854, is a comprehensive, public institution of higher learning located approximately 15 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts. One of the largest state universities in the Commonwealth, Salem State enrolls more than 7,500 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers 32 undergraduate programs and graduate programs that offer degrees in 24 fields. The university also has a continuing education division that offers both credit and non-credit programs. Known for the academic strength of its faculty, Salem State was named a Top Producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars in 2011 and for the 2016-2017 academic year. The university is designated a Top College and University by Military Advanced Education and a Best for Vets College by Military Times. Salem State proudly participates in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement and has shown a student voting rate well above the national average, earning the university a gold seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

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