Class of 2021 enjoys an unconventional commencement

Drive-in ceremony allows graduates to celebrate safely with friends and family.

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Members of the Class of 2021 celebrate with a drive-in ceremony at Cal Lutheran’s 58th annual Traditional Undergraduate Commencement on May 8.

Photo: Tracie Karasik

Let’s do one thing sort of fun as we start off, because this is terribly unique,” said the Rev. Scott Maxwell-Doherty ’76, MDiv ’81, university pastor. “Designate somebody to put their hand on the horn in their car. On the count of three, honk your horn.” And with his command, a chorus of honks echoed through the Ventura County Fairgrounds parking lot.

Maxwell-Doherty was speaking as master of ceremonies at Cal Lutheran’s 58th annual Traditional Undergraduate Commencement on May 8. He repeated the exercise the following week at the Graduate and Professionals Commencement.

Cal Lutheran’s 2021 in-person, drive-in ceremonies were a change from last year’s pandemic-induced virtual events. The events were still unconventional, however, with a bit less pomp because of the more informal circumstances.

Each graduate was allowed to bring one car of people to the fairgrounds parking lot. Attendees had to stay in or near their vehicles, and some brought chairs and picnics.

As graduates walked across the stage when their names were announced, video of the festivities appeared on giant LED screens, with guests tuning in via their vehicles’ sound systems. The ceremonies were livestreamed for those who couldn’t attend.

At the Traditional Undergraduate Commencement, 504 graduates participated.

Speaker Rachel Johnson ’21, one of seven valedictorians, discussed how the power of community helped students persevere through the events of the last four years, including fires, the Borderline shooting, the COVID-19 pandemic and the movement for racial justice.

At the Graduate and Professionals Commencement, 318 graduates participated.

Reegin Lynn Bullard ’21 spoke on behalf of the Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals students. A first-generation college student, she attended Moorpark College, then started working toward her degree in organizational leadership at Cal Lutheran.

Bryce Colvard ’19, MS ’21, of Thousand Oaks spoke on behalf of the students earning graduate degrees. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cal Lutheran in 2019 and returned full time to get a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy with a specialization in trauma.

The ceremonies ended with guests invited to sing Cal Lutheran’s alma mater, accompanied by a (virtual) choir.

Karen Lindell has been a newspaper, magazine and website writer and editor for more than 15 years, including work at the Ventura County Star, L.A. Parent magazine, Los Angeles Times, Ojai Valley News, VC Reporter and She lives in Los Angeles.

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