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Behind the scenes: Loyola Commencement

Ranging from Senior Grad Night at Disneyland to the traditional Baccalaureate Mass, graduation at Loyola High is marked by a myriad of special events, all of which require diligent planning and execution to ensure their success.

Many departments contribute to graduation planning, and according to Principal Frank Kozakowski, their work often goes unnoticed.  “All the people who help plan for graduation give a great service to the school, and they do their jobs without expecting any reward or recognition,” he said.

One faculty member who helps coordinate graduation is Assistant Principal for Student Life Paul Jordan ’88, who has been involved in the process for 19 years.  Jordan coordinates several events, including Grad Night, the reception following the Baccalaureate Mass, and the Saturday morning Commencement Ceremony.  “I look forward to graduation mainly for the students––to celebrate their achievements and success––so it’s my honor to plan it,” he said.

Jordan starts planning for graduation as early as September.  During this time, seniors finalize how their name will appear on their official graduation documents, including program guides and diplomas.  Meanwhile, Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Scheduling Andrey Aristov ’80 begins confirming that all seniors have completed their academic coursework, a process he continues up to graduation.  

In October Jordan orders diplomas from Jostens publishing company.  Additionally, he begins to plan simple logistics of each event, including renting equipment like chairs, tables and lighting.  

In April, Jordan orders graduation caps and gowns, which are embroidered with the Loyola logo, from rental company Herff Jones.  The gowns are special orders that the school rents each year.

Two major graduation events that Jordan oversees are the post-Baccalaureate reception on Friday, June 3, and the Commencement Ceremony on June 4.  For the Baccalaureate service, Jordan coordinates the lighting in Malloy Commons, floor plans, and catering service, which features select appetizers and entrees chosen by a small group of seniors.  

The Mass itself is coordinated by Campus Ministry, which selects the music, readers and acolytes for the service.  This year, the mass will be held June 3, the day of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and specific readings were chosen to match this day of religious observance.

The Most Rev. Bishop Gordon Bennett ’64 was selected by the Student Council to serve as the Homilist, and he will be one of nine priests celebrating Mass. “The spiritual significance of this Mass cannot be understated because this is the final time for thanksgiving at Loyola and the final sending of the seniors,” Co-Director of Campus Ministry Matthew Schaeffer said. “I get to see the students from the First Year Retreat all the way to Kairos, and it is fitting to send them out this way.”

According the Jordan, the Saturday morning Commencement ceremony is the most important event that he coordinates. “It’s a lot of work, but I really like graduation because this is a great opportunity to honor the school and the seniors,” Jordan said. “We get to really show off the campus and present the seniors to the community for the last time.”

During the event, Kozakowski serves as emcee, reading some names during diploma distribution and presenting the eight Senior Awards. “It’s great that all of the assistant principals are involved in the announcing of the names because they are all heavily involved in everything throughout the school year,” Kozakowski said.

Over 3,000 people are expected to attend this year’s event.  

In addition to physical setup, Jordan also plans celebratory activities for the departing class.  One such festivity is Grad Night, which took place on Tuesday,  May 24, at Disneyland.  Jordan coordinates everything from initial ticket sales to roundtrip transportation between Disneyland and Loyola.  This year, approximately 260 seniors attended.  

In addition to Jordan’s assistance, graduation is also made possible by the work of the Loyola maintenance and facilities department.  

The team’s first goal to ensure the success of graduation is closing Venice Boulevard. Senior Director of Facilities Management  Michael McDermott files an application with the city of Los Angeles to close Venice Boulevard from Normandie Avenue to Vermont Avenue for the Saturday morning of graduation 8-10 weeks prior to the graduation ceremonies. Once the application is approved, maintenance teams begin a cleanup project across the street from Loyola, polishing the area outside the cemetery and clearing abandoned vehicles.

Two weeks prior to the graduation events, the facilities department begins cleaning and preparing the landscape around campus. All the hardscape around Loyola, including pavers and concrete, is power washed. Maintenance department members also begin to paint over the graffiti on the backside of the school buildings facing 15th Street, including the Pinney, Hannon, and Ardolf buildings.

The maintenance team also begins work on landscaping around campus. The team focuses on the grounds near the front circle, where most of the graduation events occur.  Trees and other greenery in the area are trimmed to ensure the lines of sight necessary to view the stage. “Graduation is our time to shine, and we put in a lot of extra work into making the campus look great,” Facilities Director Michael McDermott said.

A week prior to the graduation ceremonies, a full cleaning of Xavier Hall is conducted to begin the setup for the Baccalaureate Mass on the eve of graduation. “We clean Xavier from top to bottom to make sure everything is ready for the Mass on Friday night,” McDermott said.

Once Xavier Hall is prepared, the maintenance team concentrates once more on the front circle. The staff begins to build the stage on the front steps of Loyola Hall, and with the help of freshmen P.E. classes, 3,500 chairs are set up around the Front Circle.  

Additionally, teams of maintenance workers continue to search the areas around campus for graffiti leading up to the morning of graduation.  These sweeps continue until the Saturday morning of graduation, when all members of the Facilities department arrive at 5 a.m.. to make final preparations and perform the final security checks. The security department checks the area around the campus, searching for new graffiti and trash, among other things. Additionally, the tables in Malloy Commons from the post-Baccalaureate reception are reset with the help of JUG students.  

Jordan said that he believes Loyola graduation will continue to uphold a sense of tradition.  “We keep getting better with each graduation, but there is a lot of tradition involved that stays the same,” he said.


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