UC Commencement - A Time-Honored Tradition

By: Dawn Fuller 

(Re-posted from UC News:  http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.aspx?id=15686)

Look through historic photos of UC Commencement Ceremonies and discover some of the university’s traditions that continue to thread through Commencement today.

Who remembers Commencement at Nippert Stadium?

As depicted in the video that features Commencement photos stored in UC Archives, Nippert Stadium – for decades – was the venue for June Commencement.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBPts6IHTrw?rel=0&w=350&h=267 align=”right”]


UC last held Commencement in Nippert Stadium in 1984. UC President Henry Winkler delivered the Commencement address at the 1984 cerermony in Nippert Stadium. In 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988, June Commencement was held downtown, when the spring ceremony took place in Riverfront Coliseum, now called U.S. Bank Arena.

It wasn’t until 1989 that the University of Cincinnati’s first spring Commencement ceremony was held in the university’s newest building at that time, the Myrl Shoemaker Center – now called Fifth Third Arena.

Note as well the photo of Commencement in the amphitheater in 1955. The amphitheater was located behind Blegen Library, before the construction of the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), which merged with UC in 1962.

A 1968 photo depicts summer graduation in the Armory Fieldhouse, which opened on campus in 1954. These August graduates were likely glowing from more than just their scholarly achievements, since the Armory Fieldhouse doesn’t have air conditioning. The Fieldhouse was used often for August Commencement ceremonies.

Written materials in UC Archives reveal that UC’s 1968 June Commencement ceremony featured what was billed as a first for any commencement ceremony ever – paper-like caps and gowns for baccalaureate and associate degree graduates. They were a blend of rayon and resins made by the Stearns and Foster Company in Cincinnati, and were highly publicized as take-home gowns that saved on the hassle of returning rentals. The cost was the same as a rental – $4.95. But they were promoted with no deposit and no down payment, plus, they were called flame resistant, water resistant and were guaranteed not to fade.

Ivy Day continues to be a cherished tradition reflected in UC’s Commencement ceremonies, as a group of outstanding undergraduate women leads the processional into Fifth Third Arena. Ivy Day dates back as far as 1903 at UC, when the group of honored women would lead graduates through campus. The president of the senior class would then plant a sprig of ivy in a formal ceremony during Senior Week. The very first ivy planting in 1903 occurred around the time when UC moved its current campus location to Clifton Avenue.

The video closes with the graduation photo of Cheryle D. Southern, MD, who was the only graduate to earn an MD in the August ceremony of 1970. She says the ceremony was held at the Armory Fieldhouse. Southern now practices medicine in Indianapolis.