Alumna coordinates graduation ceremonies

Lynnsey Veach, Contributing Writer

On Saturday, May 6, students will share their accomplishments with loved ones as they make their way across the stage in Lantz Area to graduate.

With only twelve days left in the semester and Graduation Day quickly approaching, one woman organizes the ceremony to make the milestone come off without a hitch.

Amber May, assistant alumni director for Alumni Services, oversees the planning for the four spring commencement ceremonies.

The weeks leading up to the biggest day of many students’ lives is filled with stress and deadlines, May said, and she feels the same sense of anxiety.

Because of budget cuts over the recent years, May’s is the only position designated to plan the annual spring commencement.

She also coordinates fall commencement and alumni events throughout the year.

May began planning for the ceremony on Jan. 1, with deadlines to meet approaching commencement.

May said putting together the 32-page commencement program takes the most effort and time out of all her preparation duties.

She also has time-consuming manual procedures to make sure caps and gowns are ordered, along with ensuring all students are on the list.

May said all the days filled with stressful planning are completely worth it, for the final result, to see the students who have worked so hard to make it to graduation.

“It’s a lot of organizing and planning, with a lot of stress,” May said. “But it is so rewarding in the end, though.”

She said the preparation of commencement is also a collaborative project with the rest of Alumni Services.

“My coworkers definitely pick up the slack and help me out,” May added. “It’s a lot of pressure, but I do get a lot of help from the office.”

May attended Eastern and graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and a master’s degree in sports administration in 2012.

She said it felt right to continue her story at Eastern even though she does not work with athletics.

“When I got the call about this job, I knew I had to do it,” May said. “So, (athletics) is nothing I do now, but I got into this job and I absolutely love it.”

Now May plans for her second graduation day, feeling more prepared after her first experience with the fall commencement in December.

“I had my hiccups and I learned from that, and this ceremony has gone a lot smoother,” May said. “But I like a challenge. I’m always trying to stay ahead of the game.”

Steve Rich, assistant vice president for university advancement, said May does a terrific job when planning graduations.

“She always pays great attention to detail, which is very important with the number of students and families that come to attend to watch their loved ones,” Rich said.

Alisa Wohltman, office manager for Alumni Services, said she witnesses May’s demanding work and dedication to the ceremony.

“I really think she does a great job.  She does very well and is always organized,” Wohltman said.

Rich said May realizes the importance of organizing the big day since she is an Eastern alumna herself.

It is unique that Alumni Services puts on the event, he said.

“Many other universities have a special events office,” Rich said. “But for us, it’s nice because we use our newest alumni to help out with the event.”

Lynnsey Veach can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]