8 seldom recognized commencement traditions

Commencement is a time of long-held traditions: academic gowns, speeches, diplomas, processions, banners…in short, all the expected pomp and circumstance.   University Archives however, is happy to recognize some of the less discussed rituals  of commencement at Washington University.

Below are eight less-traditional, more light-hearted traditions at commencement:

1. Getting that perfect photo.

commencement-64-150I-20a

1964

1955

1955

 

2. Tents on the quad

Commencment-circa-1920s (undated, from late 1910s – ealry 1920s)

commencment-circa-1910s-131

(undated, from 1910s) The blue image is an early printing method known as cyanotype.

3. Creative cap & gown additions

1993

1993

 

1987

1987

 

1983

1983

4. Inspiring the next generation

Commencement_1989

(1989) James Coleman, who received a Master’s degree in Social Work, poses with his son, James Isiah Coleman, age 17 months.

commencement-64-150-copy-neg

1964

5. Uncomfortable shoes

1964

1964

6. Comfortable shoes

1969

1969

7. Overflow crowds

commencement-1951-896

(1951) Guests who did not fit in the fieldhouse watched closed-circuit televisions outside.

and of course…

8. Spontaneous Joy

1967

1967

All images from University Archives.

Does your family have any special traditions for celebrating graduation?  Or do you recognize anyone in these photographs?  Please share your comments and add to the discussion of unique campus traditions.

More photos of commencement history

About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.