Commencement Tidbits


1862 diploma, Charles Branch

The first commencement for Washington University occurred in 1862, with five graduates.  In the 2012 Commencement 2,760 candidates received 2,878 degrees (1,450 undergraduate and 1,428 graduate and professional).

A variety of people have spoken at Commencement over the years including James Bryce (1907), John Duncan Ernst Spaeth (1930), Sister Francetta Barberis (1965), Bob Hope (1984), and Marian Wright Edelman (1992).

For a full list of Commencement speakers, 1905 – present, please see:

The university gives honorary degrees at Commencement to recognize outstanding citizens for their contributions to society.  For a list of these recipients please see:


Chancellor Wrighton congratulating a student, with Dean of Art Jeff Pike in background, May 21, 2004

The Commencement regalia has changed over time.  Most recently, Leslie Lambeth, lecturer in fashion design at the School of Art, redesigned the gowns which were first worn by Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, Grand Marshal Edward N. Wilson, and the Board of Trustees at the May 2003 Commencement ceremonies.  Then in 2004, the faculty and graduates also wore the redesigned gown, which are green with black velvet trim and the university shield on both sleeves at the shoulder.

For additional information about Commencement please see the following:

Commencement Collection at Washington University in St. Louis:

Commencement website:

Book by Candace O’Connor Beginning a Great Work: Washington University in St. Louis, 1853-2003
(LD5793 .O26 2003

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