Events and Ceremony Protocol

Groundbreakings, Dedications/Grand Openings and Naming Ceremonies of Buildings, Facilities and Interior Spaces

Checklist PDF Version

Types of Ceremonies and Events

There are three types of ceremonies — groundbreakings, dedications, and naming ceremonies — typically planned at West Virginia University’s Health Sciences Center for the purpose of commemorating buildings, facilities, interior spaces (classrooms, meeting rooms, etc.) and individuals (endowed chairs, professorships). These ceremonies are planned to recognize donors, architects, contractors, public officials, and other major stakeholders involved in the project. A brief description of each type of ceremony is listed below:


A groundbreaking is a ceremony designed to symbolically “break ground” at a location that has officially been approved for new construction and to honor those that have made the acquirement of the land and/or new construction possible. Groundbreakings should be held only if there are donors or other entities involved that warrant recognition.

Dedication/Grand Opening:

A dedication/grand opening is a ceremony that commemorates the completion and opening of a new building or major renovation that symbolically “dedicates” the building in honor of a person or persons that have made the construction or renovation possible. Dedications should be held if there are donors involved that warrant recognition or if it is determined that the new building, or major renovation, holds special significance (historical, research, educational, public service, etc.) to the university and/or to the community at large.


A naming is a ceremony that officially recognizes the approval of a building, classroom, wing of a building, etc. being named after a person. When possible, a naming should be scheduled concurrently with the dedication.

A naming can also commemorate an endowed faculty professorship or chair. The chair honors both the named holder of the chair and also serves as an enduring tribute to the donor who establishes it. Endowed chairs are crucial for recruiting and retaining the highest-quality faculty and for honoring faculty that have made a significant impact. Naming or investiture ceremonies should be held  to recognize the recipient of the professorship or named chair and the donors or other entities involved.

Planning and Scheduling a Ceremony

The following guidelines are to assist in planning and scheduling a groundbreaking, dedication/grand opening or naming. These guidelines are designed to help you plan your ceremony. Please keep in mind that every ceremony is different, so not all details will apply.


Costs shall be budgeted and borne by the appropriate hosting department/unit.

Planning Committee:

A planning committee should be formed by an administrator or representative of the applicable department or unit and members should include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Administrative representative from the college or unit
  • Chief Business Officer, Health Sciences Vice President/Dean’s Office
  • The communications officer for the School involved
  • The development officer for the school or unit

The committee should initially meet at least three months prior to the date of the ceremony.

Getting Started

  • Consult with the HSC VP/Dean’s office to determine a date that will work for all schedules. Select a date several months in advance. Check for scheduled conflicts with other events on campus (IA Calendar, are good sources). In general, events between 9:00am and 3:00pm often receive the most media coverage. Events after 5:00pm generally better attended by clinical staff (after clinic hours).
  • For endowed chair namings, order the chair from the HSC Bookstore.
    • Engraving on back of chair should include:  Name of Honoree, Formal Name of Chair, Date
  • Designate a main contact person/event organizer within the Department who will be responsible for organizing all event logistics.
    • Prepare an event binder to house all paperwork, invoices, correspondence, etc. for reference.
  • Form a budget for the event and determine who will collect and pay all invoices. 
  • Reserve the location for the event.
    • Contact is Cathy Patterson with HSC Facilities.
    • Best choices: Okey Patterson, Fukushima or the Eye Institute Auditorium for the program and Pylons Area or Eye Institute Lobby for the reception.
  • Determine which VIPs will cut ribbon, shovel dirt, etc.


Design of the invitation can be coordinated with the Office of Philanthropy. Philanthropy can also help establish a guest list and determine expected attendance. When possible, invitations should be sent electronically via e-mail. Invitations should include the following information:

  • Hosting Entity
  • Who is invited (you and a guest?)
  • Event Name
  • Day and Date
  • Time Location
  • Parking
  • RSVP (phone number and/or e-mail address of person designated responsible for RSVPs)
  • WV School of Medicine (or other) logo
  • Map

Save the Date:

An electronic “Save the Date” notification can be sent to each invitee receiving an electronic invitation approximately two months in advance of the event

Invitee List:

By far the most difficult task in planning an event is compiling a complete and accurate invitee list. Failure to invite one person or group of people can have a tremendous negative impact on the event.

Invitations delivered electronically via e-mail should be sent no later than two weeks in advance of the event. Invitations delivered through the postal system should be sent no later than four weeks in advance of the event.

  • E-mail invitation to INTERNAL guest list.
  • Hard mail an invitation to EXTERNAL donors, VIPs, etc. (Philanthropy can help with this.)


Designate a contact person and method of contact to handle incoming questions and track RSVPs as they are returned. This person may also want to send a reminder to RSVP (sent ONLY to those that have not sent in an RSVP) approximately 5 days in advance of the event.

RSVPs should be tabulated on a spreadsheet generated from the Invitee List. Be sure to include any guests that may attend with the person invited and indicate “regrets” on the spreadsheet.

Developing the Program

The formal program should include a welcome, acknowledgement of VIPs, introductions, speeches, recognition of contributors, closing and groundbreaking/ribbon cutting (where applicable). Determine who will emcee the program and who will be invited to speak at the ceremony. All speakers will need to know in advance how long they are to speak and the order in which they will speak. The actual ceremony should be no longer than 30 minutes. Factor in any other activities involved in the program, such as a groundbreaking/ribbon cutting at the end of the ceremony. For Dedications/Grand Openings, a tour of the facilities usually occurs immediately after the conclusion of the formal program. Printed programs can be available to all guests, if desired.

  • Determine which university and community leaders should be invited to emcee and speak.
    • The appropriate dean/director/vice president will serve as emcee and preside at the ceremony.
    • The emcee will welcome guests, introduce any other speakers, and maintain the flow of the program. The emcee should also offer a few remarks, thank appropriate persons and recognize VIPs in attendance (including those on the platform and speakers).

Speakers should be contacted early in the planning process so they have enough time to prepare remarks. Inform each speaker how long they will have to speak. This is typically very brief (two to three minutes). Call to confirm their attendance at least one week prior to the event.


Program and Materials:

  • Work with School of Medicine Communications team to prepare program for the event.
    • Program should run around 25-30 minutes.
    • Acknowledgements of VIPs will need to be added to the emcee’s remarks with name pronunciations inserted.
    • Comments will need to be prepared for the SOM VP/dean and other speakers.
    • Podium binder housing all comments and event program should be prepared.
  • Work with Office of Philanthropy to create posters and directional signs for the event.
  • Establish areas to place posters and directional signs of the event.
  • Coordinate press release/web presence/other with detailed information SOM Communications Director.
  • Contact a photographer for the event – HSC Photographer listed below.


Pre-determine length of each speaker and content of scripts to eliminate redundancy. Insert the pronunciations for all unusual names in all scripts. Unusual names should be reviewed ahead of time and practiced by the speakers. All speeches for the Health Sciences Vice President/Dean will be prepared by the health sciences communications officer.

Before the Ceremony:

  • Assign department staff (2-3) to help direct guests and manage last-minute details before, during and after the event.
  • Nametags for each guest if requested.
  • Name placecards for each guest.
  • Depending on where the event is located, special parking accommodations may need to be made.
  • Assign people to stand in designated areas, such as main entrances, to direct attendees to their destinations.
  • Modify acknowledgements eliminating those not present and adding those who are present but did not RSVP.

Event Logistics


  • Prepare a work order for facilities management. Contact person is Lennie Mayle in Maintenance.
    • Design a map of the room for facilities to place the tables appropriately.
    • 2 8ft. tables, 1 round – center of the buffet tables, 6 high top tables.
    • Place an 8 ft. table in the designated beverage area. Tables are in the storage room by the Pylons area.
    • Extra tables and chairs may be needed.
    • 8ft. table in to be set up in the bar area. 
    • Set up the navy blue drapes and poles over the 8ft. wide back drape).
  • Housekeeping is to clean the room before and after the event.


  • Order flower arrangements through local vendors. Suggestion below; others may be considered.
    • 1 fresh arrangement for the buffet table; 6 fresh arrangements for the high top tables; 1 green plant for the podium.


  • Place food order with HSC Catering Services.
    • Need the credit card number and/or WV catering number.
    • Special note for a catering staff member to be present during the event and reception.
    • VIP service and to be served on China dinnerware.
    • Buffett table to be placed for service on both sides of the table.
    • Menu Example: Hibachi Chicken Skewers, Spinach Feta Stuffed mushroom, Fajita Beef Kabobs, Asiago Asparagus Tuft, Shrimp cocktail and sauce, Sundried tomato pinwheels, Roma Crostini, Combination of fresh fruit and cheese, mini cheese cakes, petit fours, brownies, drinks.


To be selected by the VP’s office.


  • Determine how many of each size are needed.
    • Linen vendors listed below.


  • Coordinate Music for the event.
    • Suggested musician listed below.
    • The organ is stored by the pylons.

Stage Setup

  • Coordinate with MDTV to set up the AV equipment for the event.
    • Presidential podium utilized with microphone, as well as lavalier mic and /or and other sound system needed.
    • Podium would be located in the center of the room layout.
    • Podium and mics would be needed for both the event and reception. 
    • MDTV can set up.
  • Video and teleconferencing available if needed for the event. 
  • AV equipment would be rented for PPT presentation (not necessary).
  • Front row seating is reserved for VIPs.

Dinner Following the Ceremony

  • Dinner is suggested following reception. Donor Relations in Philanthropy can assist.
    Suggested vendors listed below.
  • Guests should include:
    • Donor/Donor family
    • Honoree and spouse/significant other
    • Dean
    • Chair
    • Appropriate Development Officer
    • Other important dignitaries
    • Select limited menu if over 12

Vendor List

  • Coombs Flowers, 401 High Street, Morgantown, WV 26505, (304) 292-1571
  • Alcohol/Wine Venue:
    Slight Indulgence, 3200 Collins Ferry Road, Morgantown, WV 26505 (304) 599-3402, J.C. & Suzy Warman.
  • Linens:
    • Lendable Linens, 3253G Old Frankstown Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15239 (724) 325-5555
    • Mountain State Textile, 417 Fairmont Avenue, Fairmont, WV 26554 (304) 685-2906
    • HSC Catering Services
  • Entertainment:
    Harpist– Leah Bonsall (Dean Bonsall’s daughter)
    (304) 598-6943;
  • Appropriate Dinner Venues (following ceremony):

Post-Event Tasks

Be sure to follow up with thank-you notes to all of your speakers, sponsors and other VIPs who attended, as well as your faithful staff. Consider sharing your photos/videos by posting them online, including them in your newsletter or using any other appropriate means of getting your news out.