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Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

Commencement Speaker | Clearance for Graduation and Confirmation of Attendance | Academic Honors | Caps and Gowns | Hood Color by Division | Commencement Ceremony Schedule | Senior Activities | President's Reception | Diplomas | Parking | Inclement Weather Plan | Graduates and Guests With Disabilities | Photographs & DVDs | Campus Buildings and Services | Important Contact Information

Commencement Speaker

Mary Pat Couig '79Mary Pat Couig, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, a 1979 graduate of Fitchburg State University, will deliver the address at the institution’s undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 20 on the main quadrangle.

Couig serves as program manager in the Office of Nursing Services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with responsibilities for Emergency Management and the Registered Nurse Transition-to-Practice Program. In that role, she advises the Veterans Health Administration Chief Nurse Officer on public health emergency preparedness issues and represents the Chief Nurse Officer and Office of Nursing Services on a national level on public health emergency preparedness committees and initiatives. These initiatives support VA’s national mission to ensure preparedness to provide services and protect people and in time of crises. 

“Dr. Couig is a dedicated public servant who has spent a career improving the health of our communities,” said President Lapidus. “Her long record of personal accomplishment will no doubt resonate with our graduates and their families, and we are honored she will share her story with the Class of 2017.”

Couig was previously recognized by Fitchburg State with its distinguished alumna award in 2003.

Couig manages and provides oversight for the national RN Transition-to-Practice Program. This year-long program helps new registered nurses transition into their professional roles.  She also works collaboratively with Veterans Health Administration program officers and nurse executives to address complex national healthcare delivery and nursing practice issues.

She completed an active duty career in the U.S. Public Health Service as an assistant surgeon general (rear admiral) and the Chief Professional Officer for the Nurse Category. As a senior health care executive she developed policy and provided leadership to the service’s Commissioned Corps and Civil Service nurses. She worked closely with the Office of the Surgeon General and senior leadership in the Department of Health and Human Services in the development and implementation of national and global public health initiatives.

Couig received her associate’s degree in nursing from Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield before completing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Fitchburg State. She then received a master’s degree in public health from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore and her PhD from the Graduate School of Nursing, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

She and her husband, Dr. Merton V. Smith II, live in Maryland and have two children.

Clearance for Graduation and Confirmation of Attendance

To confirm you have been cleared to participate in graduation as well as to indicate if you will attend, please log in to your Web4 account.

Click on Student, Student Records, then View Graduation Application.

If you have only two courses or one internship left to take, eligibility for participation in the commencement ceremony is determined solely by the Registrar. It is essential that we know the exact number of students attending the ceremony.

If you will not be able to attend, please contact the Registrar’s Office by Friday, April 28 at 978.665.4196 or

Note: If you took courses at another university, transcripts must be received by May 26. In addition, all unresolved obligations such as library fines, student loans, unpaid bills, and residence hall damages must be resolved before an official transcript will be issued.

Academic Honors

Academic honors are awarded to undergraduates based on a minimum of 45 semester hours of courses taken at Fitchburg State University.

  • Cum Laude – 3.2 or higher GPA
  • Magna Cum Laude – 3.5 or higher GPA
  • Summa Cum Laude – 3.8 or higher GPA

​Honors designation in the commencement program will be based on your cumulative grade point average as of April 21. Students with honors will wear academic medallions. Medallions will be distributed by the Registrar at commencement during line-up at the Highland Plaza. Final honors status will be determined by the Registrar and will be identified on your diploma with a seal.

Students completing their graduation requirements in the Fitchburg State University Honors Program will have their theses listed in the commencement program. 

Caps and Gowns

Caps and gowns can be purchased through the bookstore in Hammond Hall beginning April 19. The cost for the entire package is $55. The hood distinguishes the institution from which the wearer is graduating and the degree being awarded.

The bookstore hours for the week of graduation are: Monday through Wednesday, 8:30 am. to 6 pm.; Thursday, 8:30 am to 7 pm; Friday, 8:30 am to 3 pm; and Saturday, 8:30 am to 2 pm.

Please contact the bookstore directly with any questions concerning academic regalia at 978.665.4026.

Hood Color by Division


Communications Media – White
Criminal Justice – White
Economics – Copper
English Studies – White
Game Design – White
History – White
Human Services – White
Interdisciplinary Studies – White
Political Science – Light Gold
Sociology – White


Education – Light Blue


Business Administration – Drab
Computer Information Systems – Golden Yellow
Computer Science – Golden Yellow
Industrial Technology – Golden Yellow
Occupational/Vocational Education – Light Blue
Technology Education – Light Blue


Biology – Golden Yellow
Chemistry – Golden Yellow
Earth Systems Science – Golden Yellow
Exercise & Sports Science – Golden Yellow
Geographic Science & Technology – Golden Yellow 
Mathematics – Golden Yellow
Nursing – Apricot
Psychological Science – Golden Yellow

Commencement Ceremony Schedule 

Commencement is scheduled for Saturday, May 20 at 10 am on the main quadrangle of the Fitchburg State campus. There is no commencement rehearsal. The processional will begin promptly at 9:50 am. Please arrive no later than 9 am and report to the area near the flagpoles at Highland Plaza on Highland Avenue on the street side of the Anthony Building. Guests will not be allowed to enter this area. There is no designated area for robing, so please arrive at Highland Avenue in cap, gown, and hood. The ceremony will be approximately three hours long.

Seating areas for guests will open at 8:30 am. Please note that there are no tents to shade the sun or ward off raindrops, so plan accordingly. Commencement can also be viewed streaming online courtesy of FATV.

Graduates will be lined up alphabetically within their division and major. All undergraduate students who are eligible for honors will receive honors medallions to wear with their commencement robes. You will be given an index card on which your name has been typed. If you have a name that is difficult to pronounce, please provide the phonetic spelling. When you approach the platform, this card will be handed to the reader. The chair of your program will lead their graduates onstage and present you to the president and division dean. Your name will be read as you cross the stage to receive your diploma cover from President Richard S. Lapidus. Please return to your seat promptly upon exiting the stage.

Senior Activities

Any questions you may have regarding senior class activities should be directed to Senior Class Committee Chair Jessica Greenbaum or Associate Dean of Student Development Hank Parkinson, who are responsible for coordination of these events. They may be reached at 978.665.3160.

President’s Reception

President Lapidus will hold a reception for graduates, guests, and faculty on the Hammond Promenade following the ceremony. All are invited. Please take this opportunity to say farewell to faculty and friends. 


All diplomas will be mailed to graduates the week of June 5 to be placed in the diploma cover you receive at the ceremony. Each graduate will receive a diploma cover only during the commencement ceremony. Your name will be engraved on your diploma as you indicated on your commencement application. 


All parking lots will be open for graduate and guest parking, except for the lots on Highland Avenue which will be closed to automobile traffic the day of commencement. There are also parking lots at McKay Campus School, lower North Street and the Wallace Civic Center, where shuttles will bring guests to and from the campus. The shuttle buses will be in operation from 8 am to 2 pm.

Inclement Weather Plan

Please come prepared for mild inclement weather as every attempt will be made to hold the ceremony outdoors. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved indoors to the Athletics and Recreation Center.

  • On Friday, May 19, a decision will be made regarding whether it is necessary to move graduation indoors. This announcement will be posted on the Fitchburg State University website, distributed through e-mail, and posted on voice mail.
  • Due to limited seating in the Athletics and Recreation Center, graduates would need to reserve tickets for their guests (maximum of 3 tickets per graduate). Tickets are not required for graduates. You will be instructed how to electronically request and receive your tickets if and when a decision is made to move the event inside. Alternate viewing areas will be available for non-ticketed guests.
  • On Wednesday, May 17 if the forecast is for possible inclement weather, our online ticketing system will be communicated via email, website, and social media, with final location determination being Friday morning at 8 am.
  • Non-ticketed guests remote viewing locations will also be available on campus at the following locations: Percival Auditorium, Hammond Hall (Falcon Hub, Main Event Lounge, Ellis White Lecture Hall), Kent Recital Hall, and Weston Auditorium. The ceremony will also be streamed on FATV
  • All campus parking lots will be open and shuttle buses will run between the Intermodal Parking Center, Civic Center, Hammond Hall and the Conlon Hall Fine Arts wing and shuttle them to the Athletics and Recreation Center. The shuttles will be in operation between 8 am and 2 pm.
  • There will be no reception in the event of severe weather.

Graduates and Guests with Disabilities

Graduates and any guests who have a disability can request accommodations through the Disability Services office. To request accommodations, please complete the online form found at by May 5 or contact the Disability Services office by phone 978.665.4020 or email

All requests will be reviewed, and seating and/or parking passes will be mailed to the address provided. The ceremony will be ASL interpreted for hearing impaired guests. Large print and Braille copies of the commencement program are available with advance notice.

Guests with a disability are allowed to have one additional guest seated with them.

Photographs/DVD Recording

During the ceremony, access to the stage area for picture taking or videotaping by guests will be prohibited. Please relay this information to your guests.

A professional photograph will be taken as you receive your diploma cover and congratulations from the president, and a free 5x7 print will be mailed to your home address courtesy of the Fitchburg State University Alumni Association.

The contract for graduation photographs has been awarded to Commencement Photos, Inc., 1348 Main Street, Tewksbury, MA 01876. The photographer will be contacting you in writing at your home address with specifics on ordering additional photographs and the cost. Any other photography company that telephones you is not sanctioned by the university. 

DVDs and Blu-ray discs of the entire ceremony will be available for purchase through Fitchburg Access Television. Please contact them directly at 978-343-0834 to order a ceremony DVD or Blu-ray disc. The cost is $16 for a DVD or $21 for Blu-ray, plus shipping.

Campus Buildings and Services

All buildings will be open for restroom facilities. Medical services will be located in Hammond Hall. There will be several water stations throughout the quad. In addition, student groups will be on hand selling flowers, water and snacks.

Important Contact Information

Registrar — 978.665.4196
Academic Affairs — 978.665.3168
Graduate and Continuing Education — 978.665.3182
Bookstore — 978.665.4026
Alumni — 978.665.3025
Campus Police — 978.665.3111
Disability Services— 978.665.4020