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The end of an era: Memphis College of Art says a final goodbye during coronavirus pandemic

The Memphis College of Art closed it doors to COVID-19 but will remain closed for good as the school ends its 80+ year history.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — UPDATE 5/9/2020 - The Memphis College of Art held its final commencement ceremony Saturday, May 9th.

You can watch it HERE.

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5/7/2020 - The Memphis College of Art couldn't have predicted that it would physically have to close its doors, for good, earlier than anticipated, but, it did because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like other schools and colleges, MCA finished its year virtually, and now its long-awaited goodbye will have to be done virtually too.

It's been long known that MCA would close its doors for good at the end of the 2020 school year due to declining enrollment and mounting debt.

This week, the last ever 50 graduating students from MCA stopped by the school at staggered times to get their items and artwork. There were no hugs goodbye. Few snapped a quick photo outside on their way out.

Each student received a box with their diploma, cap and gown and a graduation sign. The MCA Class of 2020 will not be able to wear the cap and gown for an official graduation ceremony originally planned for Saturday, May 9th.

Bud Richey, MCA Vice-President of Student Affairs, said because the school is closing, they were not able to postpone the graduation. Instead, a nearly one-hour commencement video will replace graduation day.

"It's tough on the staff too. You become close to the students so you hate to see it end like this for them but I think it's been one of those things where we feel good about what we've done and I think the students have a right to feel good about what they've done," Richey said.

The virtual commencement will feature messages from school leaders and each student will be honored through a video and/or photos.

"Not at all what we imagined, but I'm so proud and pleased to see the quality of work that has come forth with this being the best that we can do and I think we've done our best with it," Richey said.

Richey said despite the disrupted ending, the school did what it set out to do before closing: to pay off its debt and to honor its commitment to its last group of students by seeing them through their graduation before closing.

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