Arielle Anderson and Alexandria Verner received posthumous degrees in the College of Natural Science commencement ceremony on May 6. Families of the two students who died in the mass shooting on campus this semester accepted the degrees on their behalf.
Anderson’s older sister Da’Carla Strong and Verner’s godmother walked across the Breslin Center stage to thousands of applauding members of the MSU community. Dean Phillip Duxbury thanked the families for being there to honor the lives of the two students, who he said would always be important members of the community.
“You graduate today, I wish you were here to see it,” Strong wrote to her sister in an Instagram post. “You’re still making us proud!”
The graduation ceremonies this weekend have all included moments of silence to commemorate the tragedy and loss that graduates endured nearly three months ago, and that they continue to endure.
MSU deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen said Brian Fraser’s family received his posthumous degree by mail.
Sarah Sharp, the student speaker, said the class of 2023 faced unique hardships due to COVID-19 and the Feb. 13 shooting. However, she said they supported each other through it all, and that they would continue to have each others’ backs.
“If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that our class is anything but ordinary,” Sharp said to her classmates. “We are extraordinary. We’ve faced many challenges, yet we remain resilient together. We are one big family.”
Human biology graduate Andrew Barash said the graduating class went through a lot, but he was glad to be surrounded by people who experienced it with him.
“We kind of rose up together and that's really good feeling,” Barash said. “I feel a sort of connectedness to these people, and it's really sad to see us kind of go our separate ways, but I'm happy for our accomplishments. I'm happy with what we achieved here and what we're gonna achieve at the higher level.”
Like Barash, chemistry graduate Daniel Baldwin said graduating among his peers felt rewarding and like the culmination of years of hard work.
“A lot has happened, but we’ve all gone through it together,” Baldwin said. “Everyone graduating today, we all know what we've all been through, so it means a lot to all of us that are able to make it through.”