Commencement is observed in five separate ceremonies at three different locations - three in Storrs, with twin baccalaureate ceremonies and the advanced degree ceremony; and the others in Hartford at the School of Law, and in Farmington at the Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine.
Until 1980, however, all ceremonies were held in Storrs, with law, medical and dental school degree recipients, their families, and faculty and administrators, making the trek to the main campus.
At the start of the University's history, two-year, and later, three-year, certificates were awarded. Starting in 1915, four-year baccalaureate degrees for undergraduates were presented at Commencement. The first commencement for six graduating seniors of the Storrs Agricultural School was held in 1883. A few master's degrees were awarded in the 1920s (even though Connecticut Agricultural College was not accredited to do so), but it wasn't until the mid-1940s, after the formation of the Graduate School in 1940, that master's degrees were officially awarded. And the first Ph.D.s were awarded in 1949, in a ceremony combined with that for baccalaureate degrees.
Here are some advanced degree commencement facts and firsts:
First graduate degree ceremony separate from the baccalaureate
ceremony: 1967 - Thomas F. Malone, then vice president and director
of research at the Travelers Corp., was the speaker at the ceremony
in Jorgensen Auditorium for degree recipients from the Graduate
School and the School of Law.
First ceremony to include graduates of the medical and dental
schools: 1972 - again held at Jorgensen. Elliot L. Richardson,
then Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the administration
of Richard M. Nixon, was the speaker.
First separate ceremony for graduates of the School of Law: 1973 - still in Storrs. The speaker was Robert B. McKay, dean
of the New York University School of Law.
First time ceremonies were held away from Storrs: 1980 - the
law school and the medical and dental school ceremonies were
relocated to their own campuses. Judge Ellen B. Burns, federal
district court justice, spoke at the law ceremony in Hartford,
and Jean Mayer, then president of Tufts University, spoke during
the ceremony at the Health Center in Farmington.
First UConn administrator to address a graduate ceremony: Nathan
L. Whetten, dean of the Graduate School, delivered the address
in 1970 to a combined graduate and law school audience.
Most frequent speaker: three individuals have spoken two times
each at advanced degree ceremonies -
- Homer D. Babbidge Jr. (president
of UConn from 1962-1972) spoke at the graduate ceremony in 1975,
when he was Master at Yale University's Timothy Dwight College,
and in 1981 was the speaker at the UConn Health Center, when
he was serving as President of the Hartford Graduate Center;
- Lowell P. Weicker, Connecticut's governor from 1991 to 1995,
spoke in 1987 at the Health Center, when he was still a U.S.
Senator; then in 1989, when he was president of Research! America,
he spoke at the law school ceremony; and
- Judge Jon O. Newman
of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, has spoken
twice at the law school ceremony, in 1984 and 1991.
account his undergraduate commencement address in 1972, Homer
Babbidge is the only person to have been the speaker at three
separate UConn ceremonies.
The complete list of advanced degree ceremony speakers can be
found on the UConn News website.
Mark J. Roy
Sources: Commencement Program, 1967 to the present. Additional
information from various issues of the Connecticut Daily Campus. These
materials and others on the history of UConn can be found in
the University Archives of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.