New bell-ringing graduation tradition to begin this year

Kristin Kovalsky, copy editor

On March 24, Winona State University President Scott Olson sent out an email informing students about an exciting update to this year’s spring commencement.
In the email, Olson stated there will now be in-person events during commencement.
The original plan for spring commencement was for it to be completely virtual, as it also was for the May 2020 and December 2020 commencements, due to COVID-19.
The new in-person events include name reading ceremonies and the ringing of a bell by each graduate participating in the in-person events.
Olson said there will be multiple name reading ceremonies depending on how many students register for it.
There will be 1,200 students receiving their degree this spring commencement.
Olson also said the university is prepared to arrange as many name reading ceremonies as possible.

“We don’t know how many of the 1,200 will say ‘count me in’, but we can handle it if everyone said they wanted to. That would just mean we need five of those ceremonies, but we’re prepared to do that,” Olson said.
Graduating students need to register for the name reading ceremony by Friday, April 9.
The second in-person event of commencement day will come after the name reading ceremonies, as students will have the opportunity to ring a bell to signal their achievement.
Olson said the bell will be placed in the courtyard on main campus. Students will have the opportunity to ring the bell after receiving their degree and exiting McCown gymnasium.
“We have acquired an absurdly large, ridiculously heavy bell that we’re henceforth calling the Graduation Bell. The students will have the opportunity, if they want to, and it’s going to be loud as heck,” Olson said.

Olson said the bell-ringing will now be a graduation tradition for all Winona State students in the future.
“These students have spent four or more years here in Winona and have grown to love or hate Winona, but certainly had been woven into the fabric of Winona,” Olson said. “And for them to have the opportunity from bluff to shining bluff. It’s to ring that bell and say, ‘hey, you know, I did it.’ I think it is something that will become a cherished tradition.”
Olson said commencement this spring will be a unique transition from prior commencements to future commencements.
“Future graduations won’t be like this one. No graduation in the past was ever like this one. So, it’ll be, in its way, totally unique, but it’s unique in a way that is meant to represent a transition from total-abnormal to normal,” Olson said.
Maggie Ludwig, a fourth-year biochemistry major, graduating this spring, said she is pleased in-person opportunities are being offered for the graduating class.
Ludwig said she will not be participating in the in-person events, but she is glad that students have the opportunity to be recognized and participate in something that will now be a tradition at the university.
“With the circumstances, I’m glad they’re [the university] doing something. It’s cool that they’re giving an opportunity to do something in person, physically doing something and being recognized for all the work we’ve done the past four years,” Ludwig said.