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Cheers rang out from the bleachers of the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Saturday and pride filled the end zone throughout the day.

The sparse and socially distanced crowd wasn’t there to celebrate athletic prowess, however, though the University of Memphis Tigers logo adorned many of their masks.

For the college students who graduated in the spring, summer or fall semesters, in the time of coronavirus, the open-air stadium typically home to the university’s football team was transformed into a commencement venue instead. 

“In a year unlike any other… your accomplishments are unlike any other and reveal a great deal,” said University of Memphis President M. David Rudd. His remarks uplifted the students, faculty and staff for “adapting, persisting and moving forward” during the pandemic.

To align with Shelby County Health Department directives, some aspects of the event strayed from tradition —