“150 SU Commencements”


In April 2004 the University Archives mounted an exhibition in commemoration of the 150th Commencement being held in May 2004. The exhibition ran in the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center until September 2004.

Syracuse University held its first Commencement June 27, 1872 on a day the University Herald reported was "prodigiously hot" as usual. At that time the University was located in the Meyer's Block in the center of the city, with the Commencement exercises taking place in Wieting Opera House. Nine candidates for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts and ten candidates for the Degree of Bachelor of Science were awarded degrees that day. These students had entered the fledgling University at upper grade levels giving the four-year institution an early graduation class. The programme included orations from the graduating students on themes such as "Pluck", "Progress in the Nineteenth Century" and "Self-Sacrifice".

As class size continued to grow in the following decades, Syracuse University's Commencement venues changed accordingly. The concert hall in Crouse College, built in 1889, provided space for Commencement Week exercises to be held on campus. At the turn of the 20th century Archbold Gymnasium or, sunshine permitting, Archbold Stadium became the next scenes of celebration. In the 1970's Manley Field House proved to be weather proof but a tight fit until the Carrier Dome provided pomp, pageantry and elbow room.

Presidents and future presidents, statesmen and entertainers, astronauts and authors are among those honorary degree recipients who have addressed the years of graduating classes. Many have been alumni invited to return to their Alma Mater. Their words have been spoken to inspire graduates facing war and peace, boom times and depression, the beginning of a new century and the beginning of a new millennium.

Commencement celebrates the new beginning of each individual as well. While graduation class size has definitely blossomed from 1872, the pride of Syracuse University for every graduate remains the same.

~ Exhibition curated by Mary M. T. O'Brien