Centre students create Minecraft Graduation Ceremony for Class of 2020

For the first time, a group of Centre College students recently created and held a Minecraft Graduation Ceremony to celebrate the Class of 2020. Attendees could either watch the livestream event, or, if they had a Minecraft account, they could join and be a part of the ceremony.

The program included speakers Cruz Avendaño Dreyfuss ’20, Student Government Association President Henry Snyder ’20 and Associate Professor of History John Harney. During the Minecraft ceremony, seniors were able to walk across the stage to receive a diploma, cap and cookie. After the ceremony, there was a tour of the Minecraft Norton Center, where server administrators showed key locations.

“This was a really touching moment,” Harney said. “Not being able to be there in person, that was tough for all of us. It meant a lot to hand diplomas to these avatars. We also had a few seniors watching on the livestream. People were able to write a little bit in the in-game chat. I’m so happy the students did this. This was a lovely experience, and I was honored they invited me. I think it really shows the best of Centre students—original, intelligent, hard-working and thoughtful. My speech is pretty short and focused on those qualities.”

Avendaño Dreyfuss was one of the masterminds behind the creation of this virtual event. The idea came from a friend of his who graduated from the University of California, Berkeley through Minecraft.

“I was elated to have the opportunity to attend his graduation online, and I wanted to share this opportunity with friends and family of Centre graduates,” he said. “Once the Berkeley—or as they put it in their ceremony, Blockeley—ended, I had a strong feeling that if I didn’t try to make something happen for Centre, I’d regret it forever.”

He then contacted Centre’s eSports Club, of which he’s been a part since his first-year, and tried to get a plan started. Avendaño Dreyfuss said the club’s president Grant Lyon ’21 jumped on the idea right away, and they also received the aid of Nick Bowman ’21 and James Easton ’20, who remained as major planners, builders and leaders throughout the project. Just five days before Centre’s official graduation date, the team began building Newlin Hall.

“After working long days, sometimes passing twelve hours of building time, we finished the entire Norton Center in time to hold a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020,” Avendaño Dreyfuss said.

The team also received support from Centre officials in the form of essential blueprints of the Norton Center, Avendaño Dreyfuss added, and aside from that aid, the project was 100 percent planned and built by Centre students.

“Day by day more students logged on to help build, and I’d like to honor them as people who went above and beyond for their community, working to create an experience that could unite a fragmented Centre in a familiar-looking online world,” he said.

The other students who contributed to the project were Eric Kline ‘21, Jackson Pierce ‘23, Andrew Fehribach ‘21, Anna Loring ‘20 and Zander Ravet ‘20. Avendaño Dreyfuss would also like to thank Harney, Associate Professor of Computer Science Michael Bradshaw and Chief Communications Officer Michael Strysick.

“We knew that the Class of 2020 was not going to have the ideal graduation they always dreamed of,” Lyon said. “We knew it wasn’t possible to give them a totally authentic Centre graduation either, so we decided to embrace the strangeness of the times and provide a meaningful and unique graduation experience for those who were interested. We wanted to provide a space where people could connect with their Centre community and physically gather, albeit virtually.

“We also did it because it was a fun way to do something productive and stay connected with friends during the pandemic,” he continued. “As an executive of Centre eSports, I have seen first-hand the power of games as a way to bring people together, and I was more than happy to help make another space for this to happen.”

For Avendaño Dreyfuss, putting this together was important, but the most important piece of the project was how it brought a semblance of ceremony and community to a semester full of unceremonious goodbyes and separated friends.

“Dr. Harney’s address filled listeners with appreciation and pride for the Class of 2020, and the ceremony, though initially tongue-in-cheek, turned out to also be heartfelt and left a lasting impact,” he added. “Building the Norton Centre was an exciting challenge, but the graduation ceremony was entirely about the Class of 2020. It happened thanks to a select group of students, and our focus was always on creating something beautiful for our peers.”

Watch the Minecraft Graduation Ceremony here.

by Kerry Steinhofer
May 27, 2020