Making the Yale campus festive for graduates and their families

May 24, 2022

It takes many hands to get the campus prepped and pretty for Commencement weekend. A dedicated team of supervisors and staff work tirelessly to ready the buildings, grounds, and walkways for the graduates and their families. A huge thanks to all members of Yale Facilities who made the Central, Medical, and West Campuses look fabulous for our students—during not one but two(!) commencement weekends.

This year, within a week, Yale held two traditional Commencement events on Old Campus. On May 14, an alumni ceremony was held for the Class of 2020 and part of the Class of 2021, who missed in-person events due to the pandemic. The following weekend Yale hosted its 321st Commencement, followed by individual diploma ceremonies in all the residential colleges and professional schools. To enhance these campus-wide celebrations, the carefully tended grounds were emerald green and the freshly scrubbed buildings sparkled for these momentous events.

Individuals from all areas of Facilities worked to prepare Old Campus, the residential colleges, and other Yale locations, including the Medical and West campues, for the main and smaller events. This year was extra demanding because of the additional alumni ceremony. To prepare for the first event, the main stage on Old Campus was constructed in April. “Doing it a month earlier was the only way we’d have the opportunity and workforce needed to get the base constructed and ready in time. But everyone knew how important this was for the students who didn’t get their special day in 2020. Our team rallied, and everyone did an amazing job,” said Michael Pizzella, Associate Director of Physical Plant Operations, Office of Facilities.

Another challenge at this time of year is preparing the residential colleges and Old Campus dormitories for move-outs and overnight guests—seniors move out the day after graduation. After students vacate the dormitories, managers and their staff walk through each room to see what needs to be fixed or freshened. All the rooms are cleaned top to bottom–preparing them for housing families during Commencement weekend. “This year was a bit more challenging as we had less time to get the rooms emptied, cleaned, and inspected before the post-term students moved in to Old Campus. But everyone pulled together; I have a great team. They were incredible during a very hectic time,” said Georgetta Sheppard, Superintendent at Old Campus, Office of Facilities.

Commencement participants and attendees were treated to a festive and lush Old Campus, with 10,000 white chairs, the tented President’s stage, and a green and blooming landscape. During this time-honored tradition, there’s much pomp and circumstance, including graduation regalia, celebratory music, and loud cheering. The neatly clipped lawns, waxed floors, shiny doorknobs, swept walkways, and extensive event setup contributed by Facilities staff, who through their hard work and dedication, made both graduations extra special for the graduates and their guests.

Some of the professional schools also held satellite diploma and alumni ceremonies. At Yale’s West Campus, the School of Nursing hosted two separate weekend events. Graduates and their guests celebrated surrounded by neatly-tended grounds sprinkled with large pots of blue and white flowers and blossoming plants. “It was truly a great team effort by members of West Campus’ grounds maintenance, custodial, and physical plant staff who supported both School of Nursing ceremonies,” said Regina Clarke, Superintendent at West Campus, Office of Facilities.

By Lisa M. Maloney, Internal Communications, Office of Public Affairs