It’s become a rite of passage for graduating students, but those who graduated from Fanshawe College during the pandemic won’t be receiving a formal graduation ceremony.

Now some are expressing disappointment — like Delores Summers.

The 57-year-old London, Ont. grandmother returned to school in 2018, 35 years after graduating from high school. She graduated from Fanshawe’s medical office administration program in 2020, and had been dreaming of the day she could walk up onto the stage and accept her diploma.

Instead, she received it in the mail.

“I had goosebumps because all I could see was myself crossing that stage the following year with my kids; my grandkids clapping and cheering me on for doing this at my age,” she said.

Summers said she has been invited to a casual, drop-in type of affair at the college which is scheduled for June 10. She’s not impressed.

“Now we’re down to this two hour, casual, up to a maximum of two people can come? I’ve got an extended family. I’ve got three sons and their wives. How do I choose just two of my sons?” said Summers.

She’s not alone in her disappointment.

Joanne Hendrikx, from Forest, Ont. says her daughter de ella Michelle graduated from Fanshawe in 2021 — and she wo n’t be getting a formal ceremony either. She said students from that graduating class have been through a lot as it is.

“They had to go through a teachers’ strike in 2017, and then the pandemic. And for them to stick around and persevere through that, and then succeed through it all, I think they deserve to walk that stage and have that proper ceremony,” said Hendrikx.

21-year-old Austin Looman, also from Forest, graduated in 2021 as well. He said not being able to attend a ceremony makes his education feel incomplete.

“It feels unfair because we’ve been through the same thing as the 2022 graduates. We’ve had to learn from home. We’ve paid the money towards our education, and it almost feels like I haven’t graduated yet,” said Looman.

No one from Fanshawe College was available for an interview, but the college did issue a statement to CTV News.

“While colleges and universities were not able to hold in-person graduation ceremonies during the pandemic, over 17,000 of our graduates participated in our virtual graduation ceremonies during 2020 and 2021 to collect their diplomas or degrees and to participate in other online celebrations. Many of those graduates are now living and working around the world,” it reads. This year, Fanshawe is excited to welcome graduates from 2020 and 2021 to special celebrations on June 10 at the main London campus.”

The statement also said these celebrations were designed to welcome new alumni to the Fanshawe campus as many completed their studies fully online. During these events, the previous graduates will be able to meet with their faculty members and senior staff. Students will be able to wear a Fanshawe gown and scarf and have professional photos taken.

Summers, meanwhile, says she understands that a full blown ceremony—with all the pomp and circumstance—may not be practical, but she feels Fanshawe can do better.

“I’m heartbroken. I’ve worked hard, as have all my other classmates, we’ve all worked hard to get where we’ve gotten and get this diploma in our hands,” she said.

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