The Oregonian: Portland State University holds last summer commencement ceremony in Park Blocks
Author: Andrea Castillo, The Oregonian
Posted: August 21, 2012

Read the original story in The Oregonian here

Drawing in a crowd of thousands,Portland State University held its last summer commencement ceremony in the South Park Blocks Saturday afternoon. 

Friends and family of the graduates-to-be surrounded the stage near SW Montgomery Street from all angles. With a limited number of seats provided by the university, some people brought their own lawn chairs, some sat in the grass and others stood. On a day that had begun with a gloomy forecast, the sun peeked through the shady branches of the elm trees that loomed overhead. 

The university that has traditionally held two commencement ceremonies each year -- one in the spring and one in the summer -- will consolidate the two. Starting next year, there will be two ceremonies on the day of spring commencement. 

PSU has held a summer commencement ceremony for more than 40 years. This year the university experienced a record number of graduates, with 6,165 total and about 700 taking part in the summer commencement. 

That's the biggest graduating class in the history of any Oregon university, said Chris Broderick, the university's associate vice president of communications and marketing. 

Broderick said the summer commencement ceremony has always been popular for being casual and fun. The ceremony is more low key than spring commencement because of the sunshine and urban setting, he said. 

"Some people wear a cap and gown; some people just wear shorts," he said. "It's not like the spring ceremony that's all pomp and circumstance. It's very Portland." 

But there is a downside. Because the Park Blocks is only one-block in width, it is hard for some people to see the ceremony close enough, Broderick said. Additionally, the university cannot provide enough chairs for those who attend, so some end up standing or watching from inside the Smith Memorial Student Union building, he said. 

"It's not just the number of graduates, it's the number of friends and family that come," he said. "It's a huge crowd scene." 

Broderick said past summer commencements were held in the morning, during the same time as the farmers market at PSU, which made it difficult for people to find parking. It is also expensive to host a commencement ceremony, he said, so having only one in the spring will be more cost-effective. 

Two students were nominated to speak at the ceremony. They addressed their fellow graduates who sat in rows before the stage, with different colored tassels and hoods speckling the majority of otherwise uniform black caps and gowns. 

Debra Kidney, 53, of Portland, was one of the speakers. She said her family has been interlaced with PSU for generations. Kidney participated in the 1984 summer commencement ceremony when she got her bachelor's degree. On Saturday she received a Master of Science. 

Kidney said she loves the summer commencement because it is outdoors and informal. 

"I'm sad they are not going to do it anymore because it reflects the values of Portland State and allows people to be who they are, without the extra formality," she said.