Haleman has Minot State commencement, Arizona-style

By Dan Fagan
University Communications

PEORIA, Ariz. – It was an unfortunate conclusion to two years of endless late-night study sessions and sleep-deprivation when Karissa Haleman found out that Minot State would have to cancel its spring commencement ceremony due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Haleman, a graduate student in Minot State’s speech language pathology program, was finishing up her externship at a school district in Arizona when she heard the news. 

“Not being able to walk across the stage to be recognized for this major achievement was extremely disappointing,” Haleman said.

Calls to family member relaying the devastating news followed soon after.

“When Karissa called her grandmother and me and told us the commencement had been cancelled, she was clearly saddened after working so hard to earn her master’s degree,” Haleman’s grandfather, John LaMarr said. “I knew I had to do something.”

LaMarr, a glass half-full kind of guy, eventually came up with an idea.

“I thought to myself, if there isn’t going to be a commencement ceremony there, then we should have one here in Arizona,” LaMarr said.

LaMarr emailed Minot State and coordinated with marketing director Teresa Loftesnes, bookstore manager Tiffany Heth, and Katie Tyler, director of enrollment services.

“They went into Beaver-style high speed motion to help,” LaMarr said. “They were super in their response and assistance.”

LaMarr’s Minot State operatives provided him with the necessary graduation ingredients to pull off a surprise ceremony for his granddaughter at her parents’ house.

On May 15, Karissa came home to find a graduation sign in the front yard and her parents and grandparents waiting for her. They asked her to put on a tam and gown, and to make her way to the backyard. There she found a podium and lectern, complete with a Minot State banner and American flag. LaMarr served as emcee of the ensuing ceremony, as a small gathering of family and friends looked on.

The ceremony included a master’s hooding ceremony performed by Haleman’s mother, Rebecca, a processional, and finally a president’s speech, with LaMarr substituting for Minot State’s very own president Steve Shirley.

LaMarr concluded his president’s speech with some sage advice for his granddaughter. 

“As you step into the real world as working for a living, remember to think and act like a true Minot State Beaver: Be Creative. Be Resourceful. Be skilled in building a lodge.”

The ceremony ended with the playing of “We Are the Champions,” by Queen. 

“Having my family hold a ceremony was more that I could have ever imagined,” Haleman said. “Graduation 2020 will always be a memory that I will never forget, and I have my wonderful family to thank for it.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 05/27/20   

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