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Thomas Jefferson University apologizes after commencement mispronunciations go viral

Thomas Jefferson University apologizes after commencement mispronunciations go viral

Thomas Jefferson University is apologizing after the names of some graduates from the nursing program were unrecognizably pronounced at their commencement, as seen in videos from the ceremony that have since gone viral.

The mispronunciations at the Jefferson College of Nursing commencement ceremony, which occurred Thursday, according to the university’s website, were attributed to the phonetic spellings written on the speaker’s cards, the school said in a statement on X on Friday.

For example, graduate Sarah Virginia Brennan’s name was pronounced “Sayer Oo-voon Geen-goo Bree-none,” according to a video from the ceremony. Maeve Elizabeth was pronounced “May-vee Lee Zu-beth.” A Stephanie’s first name was pronounced “Eff-uni,” and a Jessica, “Jay-sic-u.”

At one point, the speaker mispronounced “Thomas” as “Tom-mu-may” — before the graduate can be heard correcting the pronunciation.

“The leadership and faculty of Thomas Jefferson University extend our sincerest apologies for the mispronunciations of the names of several of our graduating nursing students during our recent commencement ceremony,” the university said in the statement. “This ceremony is a celebration of the significant achievements of our students, and each graduate deserves to have their name honored correctly on this pivotal day.”

Graduates seemingly walked across the stage in alphabetical order. A nearly five-minute video of the speaker announcing graduates with last names that start with “B” or “C” had more than 370,000 views by Friday afternoon. Another video, seemingly taken from the crowd at the ceremony, has received more than 2.4 million views, 230,000 likes and 2,000 comments.

“I can honestly say … The Grads will never forget this moment …,” one commenter said.

“This can’t be real. If so SNL needs to re-create this,” another added.

“Sarah was like … do you mean me?” a TikTok user wrote, with several crying-laughing emoji.

The ceremony saw a change in speaker once the last names reached “L,” and the original announcer apologized to the crowd, as seen in another video of the ceremony shared to TikTok.

“And my apologies for the phonetic spelling or pronunciation of the names that was on the cards. I would have been better just reading from the book. My apologies, graduates,” they said.

The university reiterated the cause of the errors, stating: “The mispronunciations occurred due to the way phonetic spellings were presented on the speaker’s cards, which was noted when the presenter apologized during the ceremony.”

“This unfortunate error does not reflect the immense respect we have for our graduates and the value we place on their hard-earned accomplishments,” the statement concluded.

Thomas Jefferson University, located in Philadelphia, has three more commencement ceremonies scheduled, set for May 21 and 22.

Maddie Ellis, TODAY

Maddie Ellis is a weekend editor at TODAY Digital.

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