Virtual Commencement and Lei Drive-Through Celebrates Accomplishments of Over 1,800 Islander Graduates

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Even in unprecedented times, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi prioritizes the importance of celebrating the hard work and accomplishments of Islander graduates. This week, the Island University honored graduates by hosting an Islander Lei Drive-Thru event to commemorate the time-honored tradition of wearing leis at commencement and welcomed soon-to-be graduates to the Islander alumni community. 

“This lei symbolizes all of my hard work throughout my time in college and is a celebration that I’m finally here – I did it,” said Hannah Roberson, Bachelor of Arts in Marketing graduate. “I definitely plan on wearing my lei during our virtual commencement. I’m excited to join the alumni community and this just brings a little bit of light to everything that’s happened this year.”

With nearly 200 graduates taking part in the drive-through, the Islander Alumni Association, staff, and volunteers gathered on Friday, Aug. 14, to bring not only a sense of normalcy to students but also sense of Islander pride. With congratulatory cheers and waves, students one-by-one received their authentic floral leis, which were flown directly from Thailand. Leis can be preserved and kept as a memento for years to come, reminding Islanders of their years of hard work and dedication.

“The Islander Lei tradition dates back to the early 2000’s,” Russell Wagner’98, Executive Director of Alumni Relations, said. “As alumni, we love every part of the tradition. As graduates drive through today, you can see their excited for commencement and we’re excited to share in their moment.”

In observation of social distancing guidelines and to keep Islanders and their families safe during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Island University preserved and adapted commencement into a virtual event. The ceremonies, held Saturday, Aug. 15, included an interactive website featuring videos from the University President, University Provost, Deans, Alumni Association President, and A&M System Board of Regents. There was also a slide show which recognized Islander graduates and special feature videos and web stories honoring those recognized with the title of Outstanding Graduate – a title awarded by Dr. Clarenda Phillips, University Provost. Many of the slides were personalized with photos, quotes, and messages of gratitude.

“Having this dedication to the graduates means a lot – we’ve come such a long way,” said Priscilla Cantu, Master of Business Administration graduate. “I love A&M-Corpus Christi, I earned my bachelor’s and my master’s degree here. Whether it be through finances or volunteer time, I will always be here for TAMU-CC.”

More than 1,800 graduates took part in the online commencement celebration, which invited friends and family from near and far to tune in. University President and CEO Dr. Kelly M. Miller praised students for their achievements and offered inspiring words, rounding out the weekend’s unique celebrations.

“Today is a very important day, a day in which we recognize and commend your hard work, your sacrifice, and your incredible determination,” said Miller. “You’ve faced unprecedented challenges when it came to completing your degree – but you persevered. It is that perseverance that will serve you well as you enter into your careers and excel within your professions and become leaders in your community.”