Guardians of graduation day

UB staff works in crunch periods to make commencement run smoothly


Between sound, lighting, sets, multiple ceremonies, managing thousands of people, video graphics and more, UB employees have plenty to oversee during commencement season.

Director of University Events Bill Regan and his staff oversee the logistics and most of the staging for every ceremony in Alumni Arena. Ceremonies fall on the same day at UB, giving UB Facilities and events workers only four hours to have the building ready between graduations. 

 “Even before a ceremony happens at Alumni, we have to make sure everything is set to hold multiple ceremonies consecutively,” Regan said. “The school provides staging, lighting, speakers and audio handling, any video graphics, chairs, podiums, setting up where students will walk. Really anything outside of some custom drapes or something special the specific department wants to do, like a balloon drop.”

Regan said the price for additional amenities varies for each school. Ceremonies in the Center for the Arts will cost an additional $5,000 for the space, which includes catering. Center for the Arts staff will provide the same services as UB staff for Alumni Arena, according to Regan.

 Robert Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, said the school will pay $17,000 for its additions to the ceremony. Shibley said the money covers everything the school uses in the ceremony such as dean medals, student medals, a band to perform a musical interlude and more.

 UB Facilities will begin setting up the stage next week. Regan said all equipment provided by the school comes at no additional cost to the departments or UB. Regan said the school saves “tens of thousands of dollars” in using resources it already has.

“UB Facilities handles most of the labor,” Regan said. “We don’t bring in any more hands, it’s in the job description that this time of year rolls around and we have to get all this done. My department also has to get a lot done in the short amount of time. We know and have a system for when this comes. It’s a part of the job.”

 On May 17, UB will hold three commencement ceremonies at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. at Alumni Arena. These are the days where Regan and his staff “need” to assure the ceremonies go off without issue. Each ceremony is given two hours, leaving little time to prepare for the next one.

 “That day will start and we make sure everything is good to go for the first ceremony,” Regan said. “Then the first ceremony will end around 11 a.m. which is when we have to really get started. People have been sitting for hours at that point so we have to pick up the coffees and New York Timesthat people bring. All this happens while we have to get everyone in the arena at least into the reception area. People will already be coming in to find a seat for the next ceremony at 11 a.m. too, so we really focus on moving people along for the next one.”

 Regan said UB’s rules for the event are what makes the multiple ceremonies doable. 

 Rules are established to make the transition from graduation to graduation easier, according to Regan. They can include having students walk across the stage in the same direction to keep the lighting from needing to be reset or setting up a room for students to put their gowns on in Alumni Arena.


Thomas Zafonte is the senior features and can be reached at: and on Twitter @Thomas_Spectrum


 Thomas Zafonte is a senior English major. He is a UB sports fan and enjoys traveling around Buffalo.