Possible new commencement location falls through

NEWMAN UNIVERSITY’S 2016 graduation ceremony was held at Central Community Church. Courtesy photo, Newman Advancement

Newman University needs a bigger place to hold its springtime commencement administrators say, and it was close to a deal that would have let the university split the cost of Intrust Bank Arena with neighbor Friends University.

But the deal fell through earlier this year, so for now, Newman’s commencement will stay where it’s been — inside Central Community Church.

Levi Esses, who recently resigned as dean of students, said the commencement committee started its search for a new venue after last years commencement ceremony, hoping to find a spot large enough to hold both undergraduate and graduate ceremonies.

Currently, Newman splits the graduation ceremonies into two different programs with the undergraduates going in the morning and the graduates going in the afternoon. 

Registrar Shirley Rued said Newman has been using Central Community Church for more than 10 years because it couldn’t find any other venue that would be able to accommodate Newman’s size and fit its budget. 

Esses said Newman tried using Century ll three years ago, but it wasn’t ideal or cost efficient, so Newman returned to Central Community. 

“Century ll just wasn’t the best venue. It’s kind of open. It’s kind of noisy. We couldn’t provide video with out an extra expense,” he said. “It was just overall harder and not as good as Central Community.”

On the list of prospective venues, Newman looked at Intrust Bank Area for its size and ability to hold both ceremonies. 

Esses visited Intrust Bank Arena early this year. Intrust said that Friends may be interested in partnering with Newman and that the two schools could put on their commencements in the massive building on the same day. 

Esses said he liked the idea and reached out to their registrar.

“He said the President was really interested,” he said. “So we started putting together a budget, and talked about how we would split the cost.”

Esses said having commencement at Intrust would have been a little more expensive, but it would have been better on other levels.

“We wouldn’t have to find double the volunteers and we wouldn’t have to do two programs,” he said. “So I was excited.” 

However, soon after, Esses said he received an e-mail on Oct. 2. from Friends University’s Registrar Mark Britton saying that Friends could no longer commit to the partnership. 

Esses said Britton didn’t provide any explanation.

Esses said he also checked with Hartman Arena, but it was booked with high school graduations.

He then signed an agreement with Central Community Church and said Newman will try to change things up this spring by adding some musical components to the ceremonies.

“We have a little bit more in terms of music,” he said. “Steve Dunn’s group, The Heart of America Men’s Chorus, will be doing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and an additional song.” 

Esses said students can expect the same entrance with a trumpet player and organist playing “‘Pomp and Circumstance.”

The class of 2018 will have its undergraduate commencement at 10 a.m., and the graduate commencement at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 12.

This story first appeared in the December 7, 2017 issue of The Vantage.