Recommencement

photo of Jessica Nadeau
Mostly, it was about the tassel. And her parents seeing her there on the field with the rest of her class on commencement day, celebrating the last four years and all the hard work that went into making it through them. And sharing the experience with her twin sister, Arianna, who had graduated from UNH Manchester two days earlier.

Jessica Nadeau ’18 missed it all. Just days before UNH’s May 19 commencement she was sidelined by a medical event. For the psychology and justice studies dual major, there was no throwing her cap in the air, no singing along to “Happy Trails,” no standing on her seat to search the crowd for her family.

And she was crushed.

But then, Joan Glutting, clinical associate professor of psychology, came up with an idea. She would hold a “recommencement” and invite Nadeau’s parents and sister to attend. She asked a couple of faculty members to join in. The response, she said, was incredible.

“I thought I’d get maybe three people. I got 15,” Glutting said.

So, she emailed Nadeau’s mother, Heidi Nadeau, and cemented the plan. Shortly before 3 p.m. on Monday, June 11, the family gathered under the arch at Thompson Hall where Styliani Munroe ’17 was waiting. Jessica Nadeau laughed as she hugged her friend and former classmate.

“It was hard to keep it a secret — we talk every day,” Munroe said. “I felt very sad for her when she couldn’t go to commencement. I’m so happy they could do this for her.”

As they stood there, one faculty member after another walked up until all 15 were assembled. Nadeau just kept grinning while her family looked on in awe. Her father, Serge Nadeau, took a minute to collect himself and then said, “The fact that UNH did this speaks volumes.”

“That they put this together for one student is so incredible,” Heidi Nadeau said. “She was devastated to miss graduation. Something as simple as being able to move your tassel over — you don’t realize how much these things mean.”

It seems Glutting did. She printed a program. There was a processional; Nadeau’s boyfriend and sister walked with her behind Barbara White, associate professor of occupational therapy, and Charles Putnam, co-director of Justiceworks. The other faculty members stood near the flagpole. Nadeau, her boyfriend and her sister stood shoulder to shoulder, facing the group.

“I am truly grateful and appreciative to all of the people that helped to create that moment for me,” the Auburn, New Hampshire, resident said after the ceremony. “There are not enough words to describe the happiness and joy that I felt. Having all of the faculty take time out of their busy days just to come to a ‘recommencement’ ceremony was incredibly humbling.”

During the ceremony, Glutting commended Nadeau for all her hard work. “You completed three internships while you were here. You got multiple job offers; you could have chosen a job that was a little safer, but you didn’t,” she said. (Nadeau starts work in July at Hampstead Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Hampstead, New Hampshire.) “You embody all that a UNH student can be.”

She offered what she called a five-minute recap of commencement, citing remarks made by L.L. Bean Chairman Shawn Gorman ’89, this year’s speaker. A faculty member started the call-response “It’s a great day to be a Wildcat.” Senior vice provost of student life and dean of students Ted Kirkpatrick presented Nadeau with her diploma. Cristy Beemer, associate professor of English, led the group in singing the UNH alma mater.

And then, Nadeau turned her tassel.

Story written by Jody Record for UNH Today.

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