CARBONDALE (WSIL) -- This year, Southern Illinois University is postponing its in-person commencement ceremony and held a virtual event to celebrate seniors in the meantime.
The university had planned on May 9th as being its big celebration. A time where families from across the state and beyond come to campus, so they could see their loved on walk across the stage and receive recognition for their hard work.
However, SIU announced on March 19th that it had to cancel the traditional ceremony over health concerns due to COVID-19 and the gathering of large crowds.
Instead, the university held a virtual ceremony with the conferral of degrees and the naming of graduating students.
Students also received a special message from SIU alumnus Bob Odenkirk, who graduated in 1984. The actor and comedian is known for his part in 'Breaking Bad' and its spin off 'Better Call Saul'.
Odenkirk had been scheduled to receive an honorary doctor of performing arts degree.
In a press release, Chancellor John Dunn said the actor was eager to give his time back to the university.
“We’re grateful that Bob Odenkirk was willing to share his comedic talent and advice with graduates,” Dunn said. “Humor, thoughtfulness and compassion are all essential to maintaining a positive outlook during challenging times.”
Graduate Kortni Kemper used the day to move off of campus. She was an RA and lived in the dorms throughout her time at SIU.
Kemper said like many other graduates she's not getting the send-off that she had imagined.
"I've been here for 4 years, so it's kind of sad to leave and not be able to celebrate everything with my family that would have come down," she explains.
Although the Coronavirus has impacted her commencement ceremony, the Saluki says she's still thankful to be reaching the milestone.
"I didn't get to take my last final and walk out and feel excited that it was over," she adds. "I took it at home on the computer, so it's a little different, but it's still exciting and I'm very happy."
An in-person ceremony is scheduled for August or December and graduates will be notified as decisions are made.