A look into Smith’s Commencement traditions

Photo Courtesy Of smith.edu | Smith College Commencement is filled with traditions including Ivy Day and the Alumnae Parade.

Zoya Azhar ‘20
Opinions Editor

As the academic year comes to a close, storage bins flood the hallways of Smith’s houses and every area of campus begins to evoke anecdotal memories for the students, faculty and soon-to-be-arriving alumnae. With no more deadlines to worry about, all walking distances across campus cease to matter—all the time in the world is available to enjoy the campus.

There is an age-old yet dynamic beauty in Smith’s campus and its people, and it culminates every year on Commencement Weekend, when students, faculty and alumnae honor the college’s graduating seniors . With the 2017 Commencement right around the corner, we’re going to look at some of the traditions Smith cherishes at this time of year.

Ivy Day and Illumination Night

The day before Commencement, returning alumnae escort Smith seniors in a parade around campus. Parade participants are clothed in white and it is quite a beautiful event. The seniors then plant ivy, which symbolizes the connection that exists between the school and the graduating seniors. The name ‘Ivy Day’ came from when the graduating class of 1884 planted ivy as part of the festivities leading up to graduation, becoming the first class to do so. From then on, it became a regular event. Traditionally, the spot where ivy is planted by each class is marked by carving the year into the stone foundation; next time you pass by Seelye Hall, keep an eye out! In recent years, however, a ceremonial ivy is simply planted to honor the graduating class.

On Illumination Night, the campus is lit up solely with colored paper lanterns, making it another beautiful sight and setting the perfect scene to reminisce and reflect.

The Smith College Mace

The Mace is carried at the head of the academic procession. The college received it in honor of Florence Macdonald ’32 by the three presidents of the college and the women on the board of trustees, at the time of Macdonald’s service as the president’s secretary at Smith. One side of the mace’s head has the Macdonald crest carved into it;on the other lies the Grécourt Gates. The mace’s shaft also has all the names of Smith’s presidents carved into it.

The Alumnae Parade

The first official Alumnae Parade took place in 1909 when it was common to wear colorful and varied costumes. Now, everyone dresses in white, and colored ribbons are used to differentiate among separate graduated classes. The tradition started because  alumnae classes would join in during Commencement Weekend while the Ivy Day procession was being made up. During the parade, they extend best wishes and greetings to the graduating class.

Ivy Day Awards

Commencement has included a convocation event since 1879. The format has changed over the years, and the version of this tradition that we see today is aimed towards recognizing and honoring those who are receiving academic awards, prizes and honors from Smith, from the Alumnae Association and the Smith Fund.

We are looking forward to another round of cherishing and continuing these traditions, which are integral to creating the distinct atmosphere on which Smith thrives and prides itself.

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