Tabor to move its 100th commencement outdoors

For many years, parents, alumni, educators and students have crowded into the Tabor College gym to sweat out the graduation ceremonies.

Not this year.

The ceremonies will take place outdoors for the first time in 47 years at the new Joel H. Wiens Stadium, completed last fall. They will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Commencement exercises have been in Tabor?s gym since 1963.

?It?s definitely a change and it will cause a lot of adapting,? said Roxanne Stauffer, senior class president.

A larger graduating class this year prompted the graduation planning committee to look for a change of venue.

?We?ve been so crowded in the gym, and it?s also so hot in there with so many people,? said DJ Freeman, assistant to the president. ?With a larger graduating class this year, we would need even more room, which we don?t have.?

Because the stadium had just been renovated, it was suggested that commencement be moved outside, Freeman said.

Plans spun into motion when President Jules Glanzer asked Stauffer to find out what the seniors thought about taking graduation outdoors.

?I couldn?t talk to all of the seniors, but most seniors I talked to were excited about it,? Stauffer said.

She took her findings to the president, who then pitched the idea to the planning committee. The committee voted to move graduation to the stadium and has been working to make that happen ever since.

?I really commend those who are trying to make it work,? Stauffer said.

A few traditions will change, such as the band concert and the singing of the sixth verse of ?Redeemed of God? by the graduates on the green in front of the Lohrenz Building.

?This first year in the stadium will be interesting to see what works and what doesn?t, especially regarding the music portion,? Freeman said.

A band concert will still precede the ceremonies, but it will be shorter than it has been in past years.

The choir will still sing, and additional hymns will be sung.

Instead of the graduates singing ?Redeemed of God? on the green, they will sing it before they exit the stadium, Freeman said.

Afterward, parents, friends and alums will be able to greet graduates on the Plaza or behind the stands.

Another new feature at graduation will be photography options.

A photographer will take pictures of each graduate as she or he exits the stage after receiving a diploma, Freeman said. The photos will be available for free download from the college Web site.

Friends and family won?t be allowed on the field to take photos, but they will be allowed to take them at a designated spot in front of the stands.

The planning committee and other faculty and staff have been working to make sure things run smoothly, but there?s one thing they can?t count on: Kansas weather.

In case of inclement weather, the ceremonies will be moved back to the gymnasium.

?A decision will be made the day before commencement after checking radar (and) forecasts,? Freeman said.

The criteria for moving the ceremonies back indoors are: predicted storms, winds above 15 mph and temperatures below 60 degrees.

The location of graduation will be updated on the Tabor Web site.

Even with the unpredictable Kansas weather, the committee is still optimistic that graduation will take place in the stadium.

?We?re hoping for a perfect day,? Stauffer said.

This year?s commencement speaker will be Lyndon Vix, a Wichita attorney who serves as chairman of the Tabor College Board of Directors.

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