Savannah State University (SSU) hosted its 196th undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremony again on Saturday, Dec. 12 at T. A. Wright Stadium for the spring Class of 2020 whose in-person graduation was postponed earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ceremony began at 9 a.m. in honor of 415 students, the largest graduating class in SSU history, who during the virtual ceremony earlier this year received master’s, bachelor’s and/ or associate degrees. One hundred and fifty graduates were expected to attend the in-person ceremony.
“When we postponed in-person commencement in May, we promised the graduates we would schedule a time for the class to return to campus and participate in the full commencement ceremony,” said Kimberly Ballard-Washington, interim president of Savannah State University. “For a variety of reasons, many of the students who graduated at that time may not be able to attend on Saturday, but we are pleased to celebrate with the graduates who were in attendance.”
To comply with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, each student was allowed to invite a maximum of four guests. Students and guests were required to wear masks during the event and receive temperature checks upon entering campus. Face shields are not appropriate substitutions for masks. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 was not permitted into the stadium. Seating capacity reduced and was arranged in pods of four. Each pod was socially distanced from other pods. Families were encouraged to sit together and travel together. Member-elect of the Georgia House of Representatives, Derek Mallow delivered the commencement address and is also one of the graduates. He earned his Master of Public Administration degree from Savannah State University in May of 2020. A native of Savannah, Mallow learned the importance of civics, and living to always help other people as a young cub scout and later as a member of the Boy Scouts of America, troop 210. For more than 13 years, he has worked as a District Executive with the Boy Scouts of America. He is an advocate for workforce development and has created Exploring programs to help enrich the lives of young people in public housing communities and throughout the city of Savannah.
A member of First Tabernacle Missionary Baptist
Church, Mallow is a graduate of Jenkins High School. He earned his undergraduate degree from Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky., where he studied leadership and ministry. In addition, Mallow earned his Master of Public Administration degree from Savannah State University in May of 2020. He is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity, the 100 Black Men of Savannah, and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
The commencement ceremony was livestreamed for all those who are unable to attend. Attendees and graduates were encouraged to share photos on social media using the hashtag #SavState20. More information about graduation is available at savannahstate.edu/commencement.