Paul J. Strickland, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from Texas A&M University-San Antonio, traveled from Dallas to attend the in-person commencement ceremony May 16.
The drive down to San Antonio was worth it, he said.
Strickland was waiting with his family to take pictures in front of the Central Academic Building. From far away, he stood out in the crowd as he seemed proud to be there.
Strickland, who has a teaching job lined up in the Dallas area, said the key to success is perseverance.
“Nobody’s ever been rich or successful by being perfect in life,” he said. “Go out and build your own empire by not stopping.”
A&M-San Antonio hosted virtual and in-person graduation celebrations for 2021 spring graduates May 15-16.
The virtual commencements featured messages from John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, President Cynthia Teniente-Matson and keynote speaker, actor Tony Plana.
“Remember and acknowledge those special people who were instrumental in getting you where you are today,” said Plana, who starred in shows “Ugly Betty” and “One Day at a Time.” “Because no one gets here alone.”
Before proceeding to the slideshow of graduates and their quotes, Mariachi Son de Esperanza performed “Bienvenidos.”
The three virtual commencements — for the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and the College of Education and Human Development — launched online May 14 and are still available to watch.
On May 15 and 16, graduates were invited to celebrate on campus with family and friends.
Graduates crossed the stage in the auditorium and the event was live streamed on YouTube.
Their guests watched from the middle of the auditorium and cheered them on, while some took pictures and recorded their graduate crossing the stage. Some graduates posed for pictures with President Matson before exiting the stage.
Each graduate picked a time slot to visit campus and was allowed to bring five guests. A wellness station was located near the Science and Technology Building and auditorium to screen for symptoms of COVID-19.
Annette Cardenas-Reyes, who received a degree in criminology, searched the courtyard for classmates she met in her virtual courses to get photos together on May 15.
“I was really glad how quick, efficient and effective (the ceremony was,)” Cardenas-Reyes said. “I have two friends that I haven’t met in a year, and I’ve never met them before in-person. But we grew a bond.”
The event had booths selling snacks and drinks, and a DJ playing music to keep spirits high.
Although it wasn’t a traditional ceremony, the celebration seemed intimate between graduates and their guests.
Psychology senior Valerie Barrera volunteered to work the celebration on May 15.
“It’s been a tough year,” Barrera said. “Having good and happy volunteers makes this graduation a bit of fun.”
There were photo opportunities on campus, including in the courtyard of the Central Academic Building and in front of the Madla Building. Many graduates and their family members took off their face masks for photos, and put them back on afterward.
Despite the rain and humidity on May 15, families of graduates seemed enthusiastic to celebrate.
Judith Urdiales was on campus to support a close family friend who was graduating.
“As a former teacher, I know how hard all graduates work,” Urdiales said. “We wanted to be here for him and cheer him on.”
Graduates and couple Dolores Torres and Joseph Platt celebrated in-person on May 15. The two met in a Spanish class at A&M-San Antonio. Torres received a degree in English and Platt in History.
“Today we’re each going to lunch with our own family, and then dinner together,” Torres said. “It would have been a little bit better with more people, but we’re celebrating safely.”
Recordings of the celebrations are available at https://www.tamusa.edu/graduationservices/