Davenport University Renews Traditional In-Person Graduation Ceremony at Van Andel Arena

Event to feature Sara Armbruster, President & CEO of Steelcase

Davenport University is reinstating its long-held commencement ceremony this year at the Van Andel Arena.  This is the first traditional ceremony the university has hosted in the arena-style format since the pandemic hit Michigan two years ago. More than 1,540 students will officially graduate from Davenport this spring with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, technology, health and urban education.

“This is a special event for us as it is a return to a long-standing tradition for the university to honor the hard work and talent of our students in a venue that will accommodate their family and friends together as an audience,” said Dr. Richard J. Pappas, president of Davenport University.

During the pandemic, the university hosted drive-through graduation ceremonies on its campus, with families driving through the university’s campus while students accepted their diplomas on stage.

“We were grateful to be able to recognize our students during the pandemic with a creative and safe event,” said Jennifer Byron, Davenport University Registrar. “We learned a lot from that experience – especially how enthusiastically families celebrated their students with posters and decorations and we have incorporated unique recognition opportunities to accommodate the enthusiasm we saw the last two years.”

For the first time, Davenport is asking families to submit congratulatory photos and messages to their students that will be incorporated into the ceremony.

The Davenport University graduation will feature Sara E. Armbruster, the president and CEO of Steelcase Inc., as its keynote speaker this year.  Sara assumed the helm of Steelcase in October 2021. She brings a wealth of experience to the role having held several leadership positions within Steelcase including leading its work around strategy, research and digital transformation.

“We are honored to have Sara speak to our students this year, as she serves as a pinnacle in our community for leadership and hard-work, traits that we strive to instill in each of our students during their academic journey,” added Dr. Pappas.

The university plans to award an honorary doctorate in business to honor Sara’s work and leadership in the community.

This year’s Davenport University graduates range in age between 18 and 63. They hail not only from cities across Michigan but also from 21 states across the U.S. as well as internationally. Nearly 40 percent of this year’s students are the first in their families to graduate from college. Students will be earning degrees spanning from accounting to cybersecurity to occupational therapy and nursing with nearly 22 percent graduating with a master’s degree and another 78 percent earning their bachelor’s.

Graduates will walk at a ceremony held at the Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 1. Graduates are asked to arrive by 1:30 p.m. Guests are asked to arrive before 2 p.m. More information about the ceremony and a livestreamed video is available at davenport.edu/commencement.


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