Prepping for Commencement and Reunions

June 3, 2019

It takes a village to get the campus prepped and pretty for Commencement and reunion weekends. A dedicated team of supervisors and staff work tirelessly to ready the buildings, grounds, and walkways for the graduates, their families, and returning alumni. Commencement 2019, featured bright sunshine, lots of smiling faces, dry ground (and chairs) on Old Campus and relieved staff. A huge thanks goes out to all the Facilities staff who worked to make the campus buildings and grounds look awesome for our students.

Commencement – a spiffy campus

Commencement events are held over a three-day weekend and include months of planning and cooperation between members of Facilities Operations, Physical Plant, Landscape and Grounds Management, Facilities Services, and Planning. 

Graduation day attendees are treated to a festive Old Campus, setup with thousands of white chairs, the tented President’s stage, and a green and blooming landscape. They watch as graduates process from Cross Campus, walking past the New Haven Green, walking into Old Campus through various entrances. During the procession, the Yale band plays in the background. There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance during this time-honored tradition held rain or shine. What attendees might not notice is the neatly clipped lawns, waxed floors, shiny door knobs, swept walkways, and less construction fencing—thanks to Facilities staff members who want to make the day extra special for all!

In addition to the main ceremony and Class Day, both held on Old Campus, three separate Baccalaureate services are held inside Woolsey Hall. All the professional schools and residential colleges hold their own diploma ceremonies. Besides the normal cleaning of these areas and some wall paint touchups, tents and chairs are brought in and setup, and other items, like special linens, are ordered for the occasion. “I’ve managed about a dozen commencement ceremonies, including setting up Woolsey for Baccalaureate and Pierson’s diploma ceremony. It’s an amazing thing to see the staff give 150% to make this day really special for the students and their families,” said Robert Daly, facilities services area manager.

Perhaps the biggest prep is in the residential colleges. Facilities building managers must plan for commencement, two move outs, and overnight guests—seniors move out the day after graduation. After the students move out, the managers and their staff walk through each room to see what needs to be fixed or freshened. Then, all the rooms are cleaned top to bottom–preparing them for housing almost 1,200 families during commencement and about 3,000 alumni for two reunion weekends. Old Campus is also kept open to house 260 graduate student guests and 760 post-term students that include student workers and aids, band members, and athletes. These events happen over three consecutive weekends in May and into June. “It’s a busy, crazy, but fun time. I’m very proud of my staff and all they do to pull this off,” said Jeff Hughes, facilities area manager for Residential Colleges and Old Campus.

New Planning Process for 2019

Each year the facilities’ staff try to tweak the planning process. This academic year a new initiative was introduced that worked well, it partnered Facility Superintendents with Capital Project Planners to identify issues that would need to be addressed before commencement. Facilities Operations staff worked closely with their partners in Physical Plant, Landscape & Grounds Management, Facilities Services, and Capital Planning to develop a detailed spreadsheet of higher priorities for things like painting and repairs, specifically along the commencement parade route. This included looking at planned projects and either getting to them sooner, covering them up from view, or waiting on them. In addition, insuring that entry or porter gates were functioning properly and walkways were smooth and clear even going so far as to removing flyers from telephone poles along the procession route. “Much of the work being done was weather dependent, and we had a wet spring, but we did it and the campus looked beautiful!” said Daly.

Many thanks to the input from all Facilities staff, those projects were implemented by the end of April, allowing our staff to focus on fine-tuning the campus leading-up to Commencement and Reunion weekends.