|Video by Michelle Peltier|
Three days, 10 ceremonies and more than 20,000 people. As staggering as those numbers seem, it's nothing Saint Louis University staff can't handle.
Commencement celebrations began Thursday, May 17, and departments across campus—including Events Services, the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the staff at Chaifetz Arena—have been preparing for months to make sure everything is set for the thousands expected to visit the University.
Spearheading the effort is the Department of Event Services, which organizes the precommencement ceremonies and receptions for all schools and colleges at SLU. Debra Dill, a senior event specialist, handles the majority of the work, including managing the annual Baccalaurate Mass and Commencement, but she has the support of the whole department.
"The entire team pitches during the week of graduation to ensure that all events are set up properly and run smoothly," said Erin Kruse, director of Event Services. "Our ultimate goal is to have the graduates and their families leave the campus with a positive feeling."
One of the many departments Events Services coordinates with to ensure SLU leaves that great impression is the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness."A significant number of DPSEP resources are devoted to the arena," said Roland Corvington, assistant vice president of DPSEP. "There will be officers posted throughout the arena, whether they're at the VIP gate, working inside at the student entrance, at the Arena's four vomitoriums, or directing traffic."
DPSEP is also involved in ensuring the safety of the University's VIP guests before, during and after the weekend's ceremonies. This will include providing transportation, assigning security personnel to certain locations and events, and coordinating with the City of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's Intelligence Unit regarding threat information.
And, with nearly back-to-back ceremonies taking place at Chaifetz Arena, controlling traffic near and around the venue will also be a concern. As Corvington put it, "as one group of people are leaving, we'll have another coming."
Global Spectrum staff at Chaifetz Arena will have traffic issues to deal with, as well. With the majority of the weekend ceremonies taking place there, managing the expected high-volume of people is a top priority.
"The biggest thing is getting the facilities clean and straight," said Jim Wynkoop, general manager of Chaifetz Arena. "What's most important to our event staff is that elderly people are able to get back to their cars after they get in."
There will be no concessions offered during any of the events, so there will be no worries about spilled soda or excess trash.
For the first time ever, the arena will host the annual Baccalaureate Mass at 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 18, which will be celebrated by His Beatitude Bechara Peter Rai, Patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church.
The Mass will be in the Maronite Rite, which is in full communion with the Latin Rite and will feature prayers and hymns in Aramaic. All Catholics in good standing with the Roman Catholic Church will be invited to receive communion. This is the first year a Maronite Rite has been performed at the Baccalaureate Mass.
The highlight of the weekend, the annual Commencement ceremony, will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at Chaifetz Arena. Anyone who can't attend is encouraged to view the ceremony online via a live web broadcast.
Learn more about SLU's Commencement weekend, including times and locations of all ceremonies and a link to the live web broadcast of Saturday's event, online at the SLU's Commencement website.