Online graduates are saluted at commencement

October 13, 2017 / by / 2 Comments

Commencement can be a great time for the whole family. (Photo by Slaven Gujic)

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Many Grand Canyon University graduates go to great lengths to decorate their mortarboards for commencement, but Pam Aydelott took that idea to a head-to-toe level Friday morning.

Aydelott stood out in the crowd as she arrived at GCU Arena to accept a diploma for her Bachelor of Science in Nursing: She was decked out in a World War II-era nursing outfit, complete with the Red Cross symbol on the sleeve and a vintage hat.

Pam Aydelott spent nearly a year preparing her 1940s-era nursing outfit for commencement.

“I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I just had to have it.”

She didn’t have it easily. Aydelott (“It’s pronounced ate-a-lot, like you just got up from the table,” she said, laughing) started working on her outfit last December.

The hat was the easy part. She found a company that makes them.

But 1940s-style nurse outfits aren’t exactly something you find in a store, and she had to keep searching online until she found it. “Somewhere up north,” she said. “Somewhere where it snows.”

And the hardest item to find? It was 1940s-style hosiery.

Aydelott’s dedication to crafting the perfect outfit is matched only by her love of nursing, her profession since 1974. She lives in Glendale and works in labor and delivery at Abrazo Central Campus in Phoenix.

“You have to have it in your heart,” she said of being a nurse. “Patients are always telling me they can tell that I enjoy my job, which I take as a compliment.”

That’s a recurring theme at fall commencement, which is exclusively for nontraditional (online) students. GCU President Brian Mueller shared with the audience an email he received from Meloney Jefferson, who overcame the death of her 12-year-old son, Jace, to earn her degree. (Read Jefferson’s story here.)

“You guys come from all over the country and even all over the world, but the one thing you have in common is a fierce determination to be better and contribute more,” Mueller told the graduates.

It’s like the Super Bowl for GCU’s online program, said Rick Holbeck, Executive Director of Full-Time Online Faculty. The 150 full-time instructors all are taking time out of their busy schedules to attend at least one commencement ceremony this weekend and cheer on their students.

The mortarboards of online graduates often reflect the hard work they put into getting their degree. (Photo by Slaven Gujic)

“It really is nice to see where they’ve come from, where they started,” Holbeck said.

Holbeck echoed Mueller’s sentiments when he said, “I think a lot of them, the reason that they’re going back to school, especially the undergrads, is that they’re dealing with some things and they’re trying to better their lives. The typical student has a busy adult life with things that are tough to deal with.”

Keynote speaker Dave Davlin reminded the graduates that the little things they do every day might seem insignificant to them but can have a great influence on someone else.

“What’s important is not what you do in life,” Davlin said. “What’s important is what you do with life.”

And even if it’s something as simple as finding the perfect outfit for your big day, do it with that fierce determination Mueller was talking about. It will earn you healthy respect.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or

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2 Responses
  1. Jazmin

    Congratulations to you all!

    Oct.13.2017 at 3:01 pm
  2. Barbara Kelly

    The graduation ceremony for online students was inspiring! Thanks GCU for the opportunity you gave us to advance our learning and careers, and to participate in this life enhancing experience!

    Oct.18.2017 at 5:32 pm
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