One of the highlights of any student’s experience at graduation is the celebration that marks the completion of all their hard work.  The pomp and circumstance of the event marks a formal recognition of accomplishment, and an end to all the worry, effort, and lost sleep they went through in order to realize this one goal. When the moment arrives to walk across the stage to receive that valued diploma, it’s as if they are walking across the finish line of a marathon they began in Grade School.  It’s done, completed, over, and Commencement testifies to that.

Commencement, however, can also be defined as the start of something, and not just the conclusion.  In fact, when it was first coined, the word “Commencement” was only used as indication of a beginning.  It wasn’t until the 1850s that the usage altered.  (

With that well-earned degree in hand, each graduate walks out of the ceremony and into the future to put it into use.  (A new car begins to devalue the minute it is driven off the lot.  A degree will never lose its value.  This alone makes it a good investment in a bright future.)

The Introduction to our Digital Commencement Collection, explains the event in this way:
“A commencement exercise begins with a procession of the students, faculty, and administrators in academic regalia. The procession is most often led by the macebearer carrying the mace which symbolizes the authority granted by the Board of Trustees to the President of the University. A Grand Marshal (usually a professor) who presides over the ceremony follows the macebearer.
During the commencement ceremony, the deans present the degree candidates to the president of the university indicating the candidates have fulfilled the requirement for specific degrees. A very solemn moment of the commencement ceremony is when the president confers upon the candidates the degrees for which they were recommended and announces the graduates are forever alumni of the institution.”

Did you know that our Digital Commencement Collection contains digitized booklets from 1887, to the present?  You’ll find booklets from Commencements held for the Law School, the School of Dentistry, and Mercy College, as well as the University of Detroit (and later the University of Detroit Mercy). You can search through these to discover interesting bits of information such as the names of the university presidents over time, grand marshals, honorary degree recipients, speakers, etc.  Using the search options, you can also find out how many Commencements were held at the various locations such as the Memorial Building, Orchestra Hall, Calihan Hall, etc.  Even the degree titles offer a way of pinning down when certain degree programs were added or discontinued.

We invite you to spend some time with our Digital Commencement Collection to discover a bit of history, and rediscover a few memories was well.  Spring is the perfect time of year for this.  Commencement is just around the corner.