Thousands gather for ECU commencement


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Nearly 5,000 students are turning their tassels and graduating from East Carolina University on Friday.

Commencement brings tens of thousands of people to Greenville for the weekend. About 20,000 people were expected to fill the stands at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the main ceremony at 9 a.m.

Even those not attending the ceremony will likely feel the impact around town. Traffic will be slow around campus, in the convention district near hotels, and in uptown Greenville.

Lieutenant Chris Sutton says the biggest back-up was expected to occur between 7 and 9 a.m. Friday on Charles Boulevard, 14th Street, 10th Street, and Elm Street.

“It may be helpful if you drive a couple of roads over away from the athletic complex. It may increase the travel distance but it may cut your travel time because you would avoid some of the congestion,” Lt. Sutton said.

With all the construction happening on main campus, drivers can expect to see a lot more pedestrians crossing the roadways. ECU and Greenville Police will have extra officers on hand to direct traffic.

ECU Police said they’re also keeping an eye on weather conditions ahead of commencement. Rain or shine, the ceremony will go on. The only thing that could throw a wrench in this is if something changes and severe weather moves in.

Lt. Sutton says they are treating it like an outdoor sporting event, meaning they’ll watch for conditions that would cancel a game. He recommends guests come prepared with rain gear.

“If people bring small umbrellas, we won’t turn them away. We do discourage large golf umbrellas because they can obstruct people’s views inside of the stadium and the stands but if somebody has a small umbrella, we want to be reasonable,” Lt. Sutton said.

Worst case scenario, if there’s heavy rain or lightning, the ceremony would be cancelled. Yet, it looks like Greenville will be seeing mostly rain.

Commencement got underway Friday at 9 a.m. at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Degrees handed out include approximately 3,500 bachelor degree candidates and 1,260 graduate degree candidates, of which 63 will receive medical degrees from the Brody School of Medicine and 51 will receive degrees from the School of Dental Medicine. Pulitzer Prize winning author, military historian and ECU graduate Rick Atkinson will deliver the commencement address. For more information, head to ECU’s website.

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