As in-person graduations return to stages for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Mount Saint Joseph University's Class of 2020 got their chance to finally walk across the stage on Saturday.
Amid spaced-out seating, students and family gathered at the outdoor ceremony to celebrate graduating classes from both 2020 and 2021, after the pandemic forced most large events online.
"That was very frustrating," said Danielle Russel, a 2020 graduate of Mount St. Joseph University. "It was very sad not being able to share it with our family members. Finally we can have our grandparents and family here so it feels really good."
The school planned for three separate graduations on Saturday: Graduate students in the morning, undergraduates in the afternoon and the Class of 2020 took the stage in the evening.
Though Dr. H. James Williams, president of Mount St. Joseph University, said the school only expected between 60 and 65 of last year's graduating class to attend out of a class of 290, he said the school still wanted to formally recognize their hard work.
"It feels very different," he said. "You don't miss something until you don't have an opportunity for it. You don't appreciate it as fully as you would once you've had to miss it. So because we missed last year and we missed December, this has a special feeling."
The school said Saturday's graduation was also the first outdoor graduation ceremony it has held. Other schools in the Tri-State region also plan to honor last year's graduating class, including Northern Kentucky University and Miami University.