The number of spring graduates was expected to top 3,200—which would best last spring’s record of 3,172 graduates.
The number of spring graduates was expected to top 3,200—which would best last spring’s record of 3,172 graduates.

Was it a record commencement crowd?


Since there are no tickets or gate counters for the event, held Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center, it’s hard to know for sure.

However, university officials estimate over 10,000 people attended each ceremony (there are two). It was the first time extra seating was opened in the upper level of the Center and those seats were nearly filled at both ceremonies.

The burgeoning attendance is not surprising.

After all, the number of spring graduates was expected to be nearly 3,200—close to last spring’s record of 3,172 graduates. Numbers are not yet final. Of that huge class, about 2,100 took part in commencement.

President Neeli Bendapudi presided over both ceremonies, remarking about how this was the first senior class to graduate on her watch. She was named president shortly after last year’s spring commencement. 

She also shared her Cardinal principles with the audiences: 

  • C – Community, reminding graduates that they are part of a bigger community and that we should take care of each other.
  • A – Accountability. It is important to take responsibility, learn from our failures and move on.
  • R – Respect. Respect each other and our differences. We are 99.9% alike in genetic makeup.
  • D – Diversity, as well as inclusion and equity. Diversity includes diversity of thought. Bendapudi advised graduates to not get lost in our own echo chambers. 
  • I – Integrity. Be who you say you are and do what you say you’re going to do.
  • N – Noble. Most of us want to be part of a bigger purpose, find your noble purpose and pursue it.
  • A – Agile. Be prepared for anything. Change is constant. 
  • L – Leadership. Leadership means walking the walk. Leadership is different than management. 

Bendapudi also urged graduates to not forget about their university. 

“From this day on, you are part of a legacy – a rich tapestry of red and black, of generations before you and generations that will come after you. Always, wherever you are, make room for your alma mater,” she said. “Come home often.” 

Photos from the morning ceremony are available here. 

Photos from the afternoon ceremony are available here

Alicia Kelso contributed to this story.