Graduation Gaffes Lighten the Moment

PHOTO: Georgetown University accidentally misspells university on its commencement book.
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Commencement ceremonies are typically about the graduates, but the spotlight sometimes gets misdirected.

As with any live event that requires elaborate staging and months of planning, schools are accustomed to various flubs and missteps. Here are some of the most amusing from the past two years.

1) Congratulations 'Univeristy' Graduates

When Georgetown University students arrived at their graduation ceremony in Washington, D.C., this weekend, they found a gold-embossed commencement booklet; and a letter of apology from the university.

"We regret the error on the cover of this year's commencement program," read the letter, signed by assistant provost John Q. Pierce. "We recognize that the tradition of excellence we celebrate today far exceeds this oversight."

The school offered to send a corrected copy to anyone who requests it.

Georgetown had accidentally printed "univeristy" on the cover of the booklet.

2) ASU's Accidental Brush Fire

Gaffes are bound to happen when planning a huge event such as graduation.

"It really is organized chaos in a way," said Melissa Werner, director of university ceremonies at Arizona State University.

After its commencement ceremony earlier this month, the school set off fireworks at the school's stadium in Tempe, which is located between two buttes covered in sagebrush.

Fireworks aren't unusual for ASU; they're a football game fixture. And that's why the fire department is always at the ready. When a stray ember landed on the eastern hill near the stadium, a fire sprang up quickly. The area wasn't easily reached by fire extinguishers, but the firemen knocked it out.

"We were so happy for the breeze that night until we found the ember blew into the wrong place," said Werner, who added she had barely even heard about the brush fire before it got squelched.

"In our situation, we were so grateful we had our plan in place," she said.

Werner co-founded the North American Association of Commencement Officers more than a decade ago, a group that meets once a year to discuss past gaffes and how to prevent them, much like the Georgetown University mistake.

"Those are the kinds of things when commencement planners get together they say, 'I can't believe this happened this year,'" Werner said.

Whatever the error, when all is said and done, commencement event planners "never want to make a mistake that will affect the spirit and celebration of the day," Werner said.

3) Don't Forget to RSVP

Seventy-five Kent State University students attended one of the school's commencement ceremonies from a nearby auditorium this month after several students failed to RSVP to the event. The Ohio school didn't have enough seating in the school's Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center where the diplomas were being handed out.

"This was a first in Kent State's history -- we have used this method and never had a problem," Ken State University spokesman Bob Burford said. "We were completely unprepared for the astounding number of people who showed up without going through the process of RSVPing."

The university is now evaluating how to prevent this from happening in the future, he says.

"Our commencement planners use the RSVP count, plus they factor in the expected number of those who will attend but not RSVP," Burford wrote in an e-mail to ABCNews.com "The number of those who did not RSVP this year -- and attended -- was significantly larger than ever before, and more than our planners had accounted for."

The students who sat in the auditorium still walked across the main stage to receive their diplomas.

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