Rice Commencement programs & ephemera since 1916 online

Rice Commencement seating map, 1990

Rice Commencement seating map, 1990.

A fascinating view of commencement at Rice over the years  – and the size and shape of each graduating class since 1916 –  is now available online.

Fondren Library is pleased to announce that Rice Commencement programs and ephemera such as invitations to Senior Banquets, Baccalaureate Services,  lists of graduates, types of degrees, brief class histories and newsclippings from Houston and Texas newspapers are becoming available online in full text searchable PDF format.

The programs detail the order of events for commencement at the Rice Institute and later Rice University, including location and dates of events, speakers’ names and subjects and songs sung.

From the 1980s forward, the commencement programs include historical background on commencement at Rice, such as this excerpt from the 1990 program:

“Rice Institute’s first graduation exercises were held on Sunday and Monday, June 11 and 12, 1916. The Baccalaureate on Sunday included a sermon and the singing of Latin and English hymns. At Commencement, which followed on Monday, Dr. David Starr Jordan, Chancellor Emeritus of Stan ford University, addressed the
thirty-six candidates for degrees and their families on the subject “Is War Eternal?” That same June, President Woodrow Wilson, longtime friend and former Princeton colleague of Rice President Edgar Odell Lovett, was working for a negotiated settlement to hostilities in Europe. Ten months later, the United States officially entered World War I.

Since that first graduation the ceremonies have been held, at different times, in the Academic Quadrangle, in the courtyard of the Chemistry laboratories, in the Rice gymnasium, and in local high schools and churches.  In 1960, when the grounds in front of Lovett Hall were converted from a parking lot to lawns, Commencement was moved to the lawn east of Lovett Hall. In 1986 President George Rupp returned the ceremony to the Academic Quadrangle, where the first Commencement was held.”

The Sallyport tradition of students walking in through the Sallyport as freshman and not passing back through the Sallyport until their graduation day is believed to have begun in the late 1980s, after commencement was was moved back inside the academic quad. With the quad being full of seating for the ceremony, the front lawn of Lovett Hall makes a natural gathering and celebrating place on that day, with students processing out through the Sallyport and symbolically beginning their path as graduates.

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