A number of unsung heroes keep the graduation ceremonies orderly and memorable.
By lkidder - July 14, 2017

By Larry Kidder | Close to 11,500 graduation participants and guests entered LLU Drayson Center for five commencement ceremonies on Sunday, June 11. The second School of Allied Health Professions commencement, honoring physical and occupational therapy as well as orthotics and prosthetics graduates, led the way with more than 3,000 in attendance.

On Sunday, June 11, nearly 11,500 people participated in or attended five graduation ceremonies at Loma Linda University Drayson Center. Commencement Sunday went quite smoothly, thanks to the efforts and experience of many individuals on campus whose efforts largely go unnoticed.

When these unsung heroes are doing their jobs, graduates, family, friends, and administrators are able to focus on celebrating the more than 1,000 newest alumni.

The eight graduation ceremonies are the result of a major collaboration between numerous departments and campus entities. Bringing these entities together is the responsibility of Ester Boloix-Chapman, executive assistant to Richard Hart, MD, DrPH, president of Loma Linda University Health.

Boloix-Chapman and her team from the Loma Linda University provost’s office direct every aspect of the eight commencements that take place—three on May 28 and five on June 11. In addition to her team’s numerous meetings to work through the planning process, she calls together representatives from the various Loma Linda University departments responsible for covering aspects of the graduation services in the weeks leading up.

Drayson Center is one of these entities and plays a vital role during the June 11 ceremonies. “We first heard from Ester back in July 2016,” recalls Bess Getman, events manager for Drayson Center. “She was already making arrangements for facility usage and other needs.” The schools began contacting Drayson Center in January 2017.

“The week leading up to graduation was packed with activities,” Getman continues. “The schools began rehearsing Thursday evening, the LLU marshals in gold robes who lead the various academic groups also needed to rehearse, and the School of Public Health held its annual awards banquet poolside.” Activities also took place that were not graduation-related.

Keeping the facility clean, controlling the crowds, and keeping everyone safe are three major priorities on Commencement Sunday. Virtually all Drayson staff are on hand for the entire day to support these and other priorities.

With the continuing terror activity worldwide, graduations could provide a tempting target for violence. The LLUH department of security works closely with the organization’s department of parking and traffic, as well as the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, to create a safe perimeter around the graduation events, as well as control traffic near the venue. For the past three years, the stretch of Stewart Street that runs next to Drayson has been closed as a precautionary measure.

Arriving graduates, faculty, administrators, and other participants each have their assigned gathering places. Family and friends await entrance to each service in front of Drayson Center, shaded by tents. Most are seated and complementary water is provided.

For several of the better-attended services this year, the entrance line stretched far beyond the parking lot all the way east on Stewart Street. Guests were able to enter quickly once the doors opened; two overflow rooms with jumbo screens were available when Opsahl Gym filled.

With so many people using Drayson Center, the LLU housekeeping department collaborated with Drayson’s own housekeeping staff to keep the entire facility clean. For various reasons, several of the commencement services went long and staff members had to hustle to turn the gymnasium around for the next service.

Campus engineering staff set up more than 3,000 chairs and were on hand during the day to keep the chairs straight and attached with zip-ties, as well as help deal with any other potential facility needs. Wyatt Video handled lighting, audio, and televising the ceremonies. The graduations were live-streamed, thanks to the efforts of Jason Zadra from LLU educational support services.

On the morning of June 11, commencement staff arrived between 5:00 and 6:45 a.m. for briefing and preparation. Staff were on hand the entire day, covering their responsibilities. In preparation for opening at 5:30 a.m. the following day as a recreational facility once again, Drayson Center staff worked late into the night returning the center to a near-normal state.

A number of Drayson Center staff tracked their steps for the day on their Fitbit® devices. Edwin Jones, manager of intramurals, set the bar with 33,108 steps—which translates to nearly 16 miles and more than 5,000 calories burned.

At the conclusion of the School of Nursing commencement on June 11th, the final service of the day, Boloix-Chapman was overheard saying, “Tomorrow we start planning for 2018.”

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