Nicholls Alumni Federation celebrates class of 2020 with yard sign display

For the class of 2020 at Nicholls State University, there will be no packed gathering in Stopher Gymnasium, no conferring of diplomas and no chance to cross the graduation stage this spring in front of teary-eyed parents, professors and friends for the last time as a Colonel.


However, the Nicholls Alumni Federation had no intention of letting May 16, the day commencement was set to take place, pass by without honoring its newest members.


Earlier this week, the Federation set up signs featuring graduates’ names and cap and gown photos in front of the Clarence James Jr. Alumni House on campus. 


“These signs are our way to honor the Class of 2020,” Alumni Director Katherine Mabile said in a statement. “This class has proven strong in the face of adversity. They have proven that they can accomplish anything and everything they set their mind to do. I am proud and thankful to welcome them to the Nicholls alumni family.”


Since the display went up, graduates have begun taking trips to campus to pose for photos with their signs and subsequently share them across social media. 


The idea for the signs formed at a recent alumni meeting, and the Federation worked in conjunction with both the Office of University Marketing and the Student Government Association (SGA) to make the display possible, producing over 360 signs and counting.


“This graduating class has had to overcome so much,” University President Jay Clune said in a statement. “Their perseverance through these trying times is a testament to their commitment to their education. I am glad that we can help them commemorate this achievement.” 


To outsiders, a yard sign display may seem like a small gesture, but to members of the class of 2020, like myself, it is our university’s way of telling us that despite the way it ended, our time as Colonels is meaningful and celebrated.


It certainly isn’t easy to say goodbye to the place you’ve called home for (almost) four years when there’s a sting of feeling like you didn’t get a proper ending with the friends, classmates, professors and advisors who made it feel like home in the first place. 


Since the day we found out that the rest of our last semester would take place remotely and our commencement ceremony would be held digitally (for now, at least), it’s been the little gestures that have made us feel so loved during this time – gestures like encouraging notes from our professors, special virtual ceremonies set up by our departments and yard signs celebrating our achievements.


Many seniors, as they finished their coursework this past week, share the same sentiments.


Emma Bourgeois, a health sciences pre-professional graduate, said that moving on from Nicholls is “bittersweet,” but being recognized in such a way ahead of graduation is meaningful. 


“For a lot of us, this isn’t how we wanted this semester to end for us, so seeing that other people are taking time out of their day to recognize us is something special, and it makes me thankful to have gone to Nicholls,”  Bourgeois said. 


Bourgeois, who served as SGA president this school year, was in the unique position of overseeing the funding of the signs as one of her last projects in office.


“It was brought up from alumni as a suggestion, and seeing it come to life was really awesome. Being involved in it on the SGA side…it was really cool seeing both sides of it,” Bourgeois said.


Emilee Theriot, a mass communication graduate, said she was “not surprised” that such a gesture came from Nicholls. For her, the best part of the display has been receiving photos of her sign from friends and family who stop to see it. 


“When people send me the photos, I get really touched because they took time out of their day to go and find me in like this mess of graduates, just this huge crowd, and take the picture and send it to me to tell me how proud they are,” Theriot said. 


For Megan Henshaw, a psychology graduate, her senior year may not have ended as expected, but she said she appreciates the Federation’s personal touch from using photos to show each graduate. 


“I thought it was really neat to see that they had done that because I really didn’t think anything was going to happen until the fall, or until whenever this clears up,” Henshaw said. “It just showed us that we were not forgotten among the mess.”


If you happen to pass by campus in the coming days, consider taking a minute to stop and say hello to the newest graduates of Nicholls.