Purple Rain Pirates celebrate in spite of cancelled ceremony

The threat of severe weather — not just rain, but lightning and high winds — forced the cancellation of East Carolina University’s main commencement ceremony at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, but graduates remained in good spirits and will celebrate at indoor departmental recognition ceremonies throughout the weekend.

The decision to cancel the ceremony was not reached lightly; a team of university leaders and administrators met early this morning to monitor the weather system moving through the area. Ultimately, the outdoor event was cancelled for the safety of students, faculty, staff and guests. It’s believed to be the first time ever that ECU’s spring commencement was completely canceled due to the threat of severe weather.

Class of 2017

ECU graduated more than 5,500 students, including almost 4,000 undergraduates. In a first for ECU, Chancellor Cecil Staton and keynote speaker Margaret Spellings, UNC System president, conferred degrees virtually in a video shared on social media.

“We’re disappointed that this morning, due to tornado watches, severe storms, rain and lightning in the area, we were unable to have our event here at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, but we want you to know that we are incredibly proud of each and every one of you.”

-Chancellor Cecil Staton

Margaret Spellings also recorded an abbreviated version of her commencement speech, in which she urged the graduates to take celebrate their accomplishment and to thank those who have helped them along the way — parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, husbands, wives, children and cousins.

Making the best of a rainy situation!

A group of newly minted Pirate nurses remained despite the rain, sounding air horns and spraying the Silly String they had brought for the ceremony.

“We wanted to cheer and celebrate anyway, and just have some fun, we’re disappointed but we’ll still have our nursing event tomorrow morning.”

-Kimber Matney, ECU College of Nursing graduate

“This is the happiest day of the year,” said Dr. William Downs, dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, during the departmental ceremony for the University Studies program. “Everybody within a 2-mile radius of ECU is happy!”

Margret Spellings told students to "seek success and happiness, look for the good in all people, and take life in stride."

This year’s graduating class will certainly have a story to tell as they transition into the next stage of their lives.

Check out ECU's Full 2017 Spring Commencement Story:

Go Pirates!

Created By
Morgan Tilton


Photos by Cliff Hollis & Rhett Butler

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