This handbill was printed for the 10th anniversary commencement at Wabash in 1848. That would make the first commencement in 1838. Although Wabash College was founded in 1832, classes did not start until 1833. Nearly five years later two men graduated as the Class of 1838. Archibald Cameron Allen and Silas Jessup completed their coursework and in July of that year walked into history. And to clarify – there was no commencement in 1839 – so that makes this truly the ninth actual commencement.

Commencements of today are really quite different from those of the past. The first difference is that now only two seniors speak at Commencement – in the past the entire class was required to deliver an oration.

As the college grew, so did Commencement activities. By 1895 Commencement started on Sunday and lasted through Wednesday evening.

The first event was the Baccalaureate sermon delivered Sunday morning by President Burroughs. Sunday evening featured a guest preacher for the Commencement Sermon.

Monday evening starting at 8pm was the Senior Class Day at the Music Hall downtown.

On Tuesday morning, the Board of Trustees met at 9 am in the Yandes Library building. At 3pm on Tuesday the class reunions began and at 7:30 the reunion dinner was held, again in Yandes. The speaker for the dinner was Harry J. Milligan [W1873].

(Brief aside: Milligan later served on the Board of Trustees, and in 1906 was its president. The Milligan Clock now between Center and Baxter was donated in his memory.)

Finally, bright and early on Wednesday morning, the Commencement exercises began. That evening it was the tradition that the President hosted a reception. As we see in this case, it was held in Yandes Hall – now named Detchon Hall. All of these activities made for quite a week here at Wabash in 1895.

Commencement is still quite a busy week, but now thankfully the reunions are later. This gives us all a chance to focus on the single event – either Commencement or the Big Bash. And while we don’t start on Monday and I can’t say how long has passed since the change to Sunday for commencement, these events still keep us all on our toes! Commencement 2010 will be no exception to the notion of a bustle of activity. Then just a few weeks later the campus comes alive in June for the Big Bash. I love both events for different reasons – but Commencement with its diplomas all in tidy rows, the faculty in their colorful regalia and the smiles on the faces of the graduates is still just the best. What a day, what a place!


Beth Swift

ps Here is another commencement image – pretty self explanatory but still neat to see…

This was a special small stamp created for the 100th Commencement in 1938.

Beth Swift
Wabash College