Happy surprise: Study-abroad pair ‘graduates’ via Zoom from Ireland

Professor Declan McCabe arranges short ceremony that includes words from Saint Michael's President Lorraine Sterritt

May 17, 2023
Staff report
WCAX screengrab

This screengrab shows the WCAX report about the surprise ceremony.

Watch WCAX story on the surprise>>

Instead of walking across the stage to graduate with the rest of their classmates in the Saint Michael’s College Class of 2023, two seniors who were on an academic study trip in Ireland were surprised with an impromptu commencement ceremony.

Biology Professor Declan McCabe and other faculty members leading the trip to Dingle (biology Professor Paul Constantino and emeritus Professor/former VPAA Karen Talentino) decided to honor the two graduates during the group’s welcome dinner on Saturday, May 13 – hundreds of miles away from campus. Saint Michael’s College President Lorraine Sterritt appeared via Zoom to offer a few remarks to the seniors, and the students’ parents also were able to join the livestream.

Watch the ceremony:

The two graduates (who had no idea this would be happening) were Lily H. Friesen of Brattleboro, VT (biology major and philosophy and ethics minor), and Colin J. Radican of Sloatsburg, NY (biochemistry major). Faculty packed caps and gowns and stoles displaying the Irish flag to give to the two graduates for the occasion. They also coordinated with the Registrar’s Office to present the two students with their official diplomas.

When faculty revealed the traditional graduation garments at the welcome dinner, it seemed like the students were truly surprised. Each appeared in front of the camera to receive the diploma from Professor McCabe while their families clapped and waved from the livestream. Afterward, President Sterritt officially conferred the degrees and announced the two as graduates from Saint Michael’s College.

“Even though you’re in Ireland and I’m in Colchester, this is entirely official,” President Sterritt said. “So, when I confer a degree on you, just take the degree and run.”

The academic study trip group will be in Ireland for two weeks studying coastal ecology.


This screengrab shows the start of the Zoom of Saturday’s ceremony, including President Sterritt (top right), the graduates’ families, Peggy Imai (bottom left) of the Study Abroad Office, Liz Murray ’13 of the Marketing/Communications office (second from top left) who arranged coverage, and the group in Ireland (top left).

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