College Hosts Unique Commencement Ceremony Honoring the Class of 2020
Campus News

Commencement 2020Franklin College administration, faculty, staff, board of trustees and special friends and family members came together on the morning of Sunday, Oct. 11 to honor the Class of 2020 during a unique Commencement ceremony, one dedicated in both serious thought and preparation to provide a fitting conclusion to their undergraduate careers. One hundred and eighty one students earned their bachelor and master degrees and were recognized, several in absentia, due to COVID-19 concerns as well as graduate school and careers that have taken them across the country.

In preparation of the ceremony, Franklin College President Kerry N. Prather said, “We are determined to deliver the very special commencement each graduate has earned. This has been a challenging year for all of us, but especially for the Class of 2020. If their strength and resilience through this experience are an indication of what they will accomplish as Franklin College graduates, they will indeed do amazing things.”

The ceremony, typically held inside Spurlock Center Gymnasium, was instead held outdoors on the football field in Stewart “Red” Faught Stadium on campus, allowing for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and allowing each graduate to invite four guests to attend the ceremony. Tickets were required to attend the ceremony and the event was also live-streamed on the college website, The ceremony was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 23, 2020.

Franklin College conferred three honorary degrees. Michael Gilligan, president emeritus of the Henry Luce Foundation in New York, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Gilligan was the keynote speaker at the 2020 baccalaureate service held virtually on May 23, 2020. Douglas L. Tillman, retired associate general counsel for Eli Lilly and Company, received an honorary doctor of laws degree. Tillman is a 1970 graduate of the college and serves on its board of trustees. Richard DiMarchi, Ph.D., a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Gill Chair in Biomolecular Sciences at Indiana University, received an honorary doctor of science degree during the ceremony. He is a former vice president at Novo Nordisk Research Laboratories and retired group vice president at Eli Lilly and Company. A well-known entrepreneur in the biosciences space, DiMarchi most recently helped launch MBX Biosciences and is now serving as Chief Scientific Officer. DiMarchi also served as the event’s keynote speaker.

DiMarchi encouraged graduates to embrace challenges, but to do it in a civilized manner. “When you see yellow, I hope you see the sun and the hope it represents for a better day,” said DiMarchi. “Let us figuratively tie a yellow ribbon around this Franklin College campus in the hope that we might not just survive this pandemic, but that we might emerge stronger and better prepared for whatever lies ahead.”

Melissa Beer, daughter of Todd and Kristina Beer of Fremont, was voted upon by her classmates to serve as the Senior Class speaker. A double major in applied mathematics and quantitative analysis with a minor in business, Beer now works in the data strategy department for Lincoln Financial Group.

“I am so extremely grateful to Franklin for giving us the opportunity that many graduates of 2020 did not have. We get that walk across the stage that brings closure to the four years of hard work during our collegiate careers,” said Beer in her address. “As graduates, we can vouch for the fact that one of our biggest lessons Franklin engrains in us as students is to be adaptable and resilient in an ever-changing society, and boy is our world ever-changing right now. But today is not about the challenges we faced. Instead, today is about celebrating all we accomplished. Because we did it. We made it to graduation!”

For more information, contact the Franklin College Office of Communications at (317) 738-8185.

POSTED Oct 11, 2020