KU Class of 2024 celebrates graduation despite surroundings under construction

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Post updated at 1:40 p.m. Sunday, May 12:

Construction at the football stadium did not hinder thousands of University of Kansas graduates and their families from celebrating their accomplishments Sunday. 

David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium looked quite different from most years as it is undergoing a multiyear, multimillion-dollar renovation.

Michelle Heffner Hayes, professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, served as master of ceremonies.

Regardless, “We’re really into our traditions here at the University of Kansas — waving the wheat, the Rock Chalk chant, not walking through the campanile until graduation,” Heffner Hayes said. “Walking the hill is no different.”

They showed an image of Memorial Stadium from 100 years ago — the first time KU graduates walked down the hill into the stadium for commencement. 

A photo from KU’s first commencement at Memorial Stadium in 1924 (Screenshot)

“Looks kinda familiar, doesn’t it?” Heffner Hayes joked. “In all seriousness, we’re grateful that you’re here bearing with us and infusing this construction site with lots of joy this morning.”

Chancellor Douglas Girod thanked the people who “figured out how to put graduation into the middle of the biggest construction site we’ve ever had.” 

He acknowledged that many students of the Class of 2024 were also in the Class of 2020, whose high school graduation ceremonies were upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, “so it was really important for us to make sure we can pull this one off,” he said.

He told graduates that while they completed their education, they weren’t only improving themselves but also the university as a whole.

“Graduates, our mission as one of the nation’s top leading research universities is to ensure that when you leave here, you have the knowledge and the skills to succeed and to help those around you,” Girod said. “And that’s why you’re KU’s greatest contribution to the world.”

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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