Students in field

Finlandia Celebrates Class of 2021 with Hybrid In-Person Commencement Ceremony

April 30, 2021

Thursday, April 29, 2021 marked a historic day in the timeline of Finlandia University. For the first time in two years, students were able to feel the jubilation of walking across the stage on graduation day, diploma in hand. More than a century old, the university once again brought forth the perseverance, commitment and dedication that some call sisu and others call Finlandia. 

Prior to the commencement ceremony, a baccalaureate worship service was held at the Finnish American Heritage Center. Reverend Sarah Semmler Smith led the worship service and Dr. Philip Johnson, Finlandia President, led the Prayers of Intercession. 

“Calm our fears, fashion our hearts toward compassion, and let our love spread faster than any virus ever could,” Dr. Johnson said.

The commencement ceremony was located at the Hirvonen College of Health Sciences auditorium. Acquired by Finlandia in an agreement with Hancock Public Schools called Campus and Community: Together for Good, the sentiment was shared by Ray Hirvonen in the spring of 2018 when he pledged to support Finlandia’s health science programs with a gift of $1,000,000. Through this and many continuing renovations, Finlandia was able to allow their class of 63 graduating students to enjoy a hybrid in-person commencement ceremony. With safety precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was limited to graduating students, honor recipients, Finlandia faculty, and two permitted guests per student graduate. The event was live-streamed and recorded for family viewing which can now be watched at Finlandia’s YouTube

Finlandia’s International School of Art & Design was represented by both Student Speaker Ramona Kuhn and Commencement Speaker Phyllis Fredendall. Kuhn is a graduating senior, ceramics major and Student Representative, while Fredendall had been serving as a Fiber & Fashion design instructor and professor for almost 30 years until her retirement in 2020. 

“While there have been more struggles and hurdles over the last year and a half than anyone would have dreamed of, I believe we’ll come out of this stronger,” Kuhn said. “But it’s been a time to reset our lives and reflect on how we want to spend our time.” 

Fredendall opened her commencement speech with a testament to Finnish heritage and closed in reverence to Finlandia’s mission; Dedication to academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service. 

“I hope that you will continue to think critically, yet act with kindness. That you will take care of yourself, yet be generous with your time and your talents and your praise of others,” Fredendall said. “You will undoubtedly get more than you give. Let the light in!” 

What started out a rainy, cloud covered day, turned into one of the most beautiful afternoons of 2021 thus far. Finlandia sends a special thank you to the Western UP Health Department and others for the recommendations on how to provide a safe hybrid-style ceremony this year. It was incredibly important to the seniors to be able to walk. 

Commencement programs are available for viewing and download at Finlandia.edu/graduation or directly at this link. For those who missed the livestream of the commencement ceremony or baccalaureate worship service, they can be viewed on our YouTube channel, Finlandia University.

Graduation pictures can be found on Flickr: Here  

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