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USU welcomes December rites

Since the late 1800s, virtually no precipitation has fallen on the Utah State University campus between Dec. 17 and 19. So, weather-wise, the runway looks clear for USU's new December commencement on Dec. 18.

Of course, that has USU assistant provost Sydney Peterson fearing it will snow 10 inches on that day, a date USU's commencement committee picked before doing a historical weather check.

"It was kind of for our amusement that we went back and checked that," said Peterson, who chairs the committee.

Rest assured, it will be chilly at 10:30 a.m. that day (if history repeats itself), with temperatures anywhere between 10 and 40 degrees. Hint to grads: Wear warm shoes instead of flip-flops.

About 1,000 out of an estimated 1,800 who qualify for the new commencement date will actually march into the Spectrum arena to the sounds of "Pomp and Circumstance."

That suits USU industrial science student James Lewis, 34, who said that because of his age he wasn't that thrilled about taking part in a huge ceremony that drags on and on.

Without honorary degrees being offered, no faculty awards and a commencement speaker chosen from among faculty ranks, there will be less pomp — and fewer expenses — at this graduation.

"It's really going to be totally for the students," Peterson said.

Students at Weber State University have had the option of graduating in December since 1996. About 1,000 to 1,500 WSU students take part in the ceremony.

It was the students who last spring pushed USU administration to hold a ceremony in December. Many students leave the Logan area after fulfilling their graduation requirements and aren't able to return for the spring lineup.

"It's the right thing to do for the students," said Peterson.

"It's making my life much easier," said Jeffrey Reece, 24, who will graduate with a bachelor's degree in economics and a minor in Russian.

Reece's plans are to be at a new job in either Los Angeles or Phoenix by January. Coming back to Logan in the spring is not in the cards. But Reece feels creating photographic memories of the ceremony would one day serve as encouragement for his 8-month-old son to attend college.

"It's kind of the culmination of the last 3 1/2 years," he said. "It would be nice to have a time to celebrate my accomplishment."

Lewis agrees, if only because of a certain someone.

"I figure I'd better do it," he said, "so my mom can see me graduate — it took me awhile."