NMU goes extra mile in awarding winter commencement degree

Steven Donley didn’t plan to attend Northern Michigan University’s Dec. 15 commencement to receive his master’s degree in business administration, only so that two graduating seniors he supervises at the Best Buy in Marquette Township could enjoy the morning off to participate in the ceremony.

Upon hearing about his gesture, NMU administrators decided to bring graduation to him at the store the Thursday before commencement.

They surprised Donley by setting up an NMU backdrop, outfitting him in a cap and gown, conducting a master’s hooding ceremony and presenting him with a diploma.

“I wasn’t expecting this at all,” Donley said in a news release. “It makes me feel pretty special that they would go to this effort, but that’s the kind of support you get from Northern. I’m so glad I made the choice to enroll there.”

The store was an appropriate makeshift location for the festivities. When Donley presented his MBA portfolio to the NMU College of Business, it included a proposed marketing plan for Best Buy.

“At that point in time, I was just looking to learn more about my employer and see how I might advance in my career,” said Donley, who is a front-end supervisor overseeing customer service functions. “My plan focused mainly on the Best Buy corporate website and how it could be improved to be more competitive.

“For example, recommending other accessories to customers shopping online for TVs. I shared my plan with my supervisor and general manager, then told corporate about it and was invited to Best Buy headquarters last August to meet with the CEO and other executives.”

Donley’s colleagues helped to maintain the surprise. He was in a back room at the store when NMU President Fritz Erickson, College of Business Interim Dean Carol Johnson and professor Gary Brunswick arrived in their academic regalia. Donley emerged from the room in response to a ruse request for customer assistance and was pleasantly surprised to discover the real reason he was summoned.

Donley’s gesture to his co-workers is certainly admirable, but it’s really great to see the response NMU staff had after hearing about it. We were glad to hear this story, and we would like to commend both Donley and the NMU administrators. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.