Davidson’s 183rd Commencement: A History Maker

This Sunday, May 17th, marks the 183rd Commencement celebration at Davidson College. However, this year, no one will have to worry about whether or not Commencement will be held on Chambers lawn or in Baker Sports Complex. Instead, the Davidson College community will be recognizing the achievements of the Class of 2020 from home. For the first time in Davidson’s history, Commencement will be celebrated online and the on-campus Commencement ceremony has been rescheduled. Archives and Special Collections would like to honor the Class of 2020 by sharing some resources on the history of Commencement.

Commencement 1994. Students walk down aisle with Chambers Building in the background.
Class of 1994 procession with Chambers in the background

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Entries in the Davidson Encyclopedia

The Class of 2020 will be the second graduating class to put ’20 after their names. Taking a look back one hundred years ago to the Class of 1920, one can find that there were 52 degrees conferred during commencement exercises. The May 26, 1920 issue of The Davidsonian reported the success of commencement festivities, with headlines including “Grand Commencement Marks End of Successful Year” and “Davidson Closes Eighty-First Session in Blaze of Glory — All Commencement Events Interesting and Enjoyable.”

Most certainly, the celebration for the Class of 2020 will be different than those of years past. But, I imagine it will, too, be interesting and enjoyable. During the early 20th century, it was typical for the senior class to write and publish a poem in the student annual Quips and Cranks. The senior poem for the Class of 1920 centered around the transition from college life to “the real world,” in which one has the opportunity and responsibility to make choices about what kind of life to pursue. This theme is as relatable today as it was in 1920.

Senior Class Poem from Class of 1920 as featured in the college annual, Quips and Cranks
Senior Class Poem from the Class of 1920 as featured in Quips and Cranks

Commencement is a time to recognize the hard work and achievements of our students and to mark their transition to adult life. We sincerely congratulate the Class of 2020 and wish them all the best! Go Cats!

Banner photo with "Congratulations Class of 2020 Davidson College" written on it. Includes a wildcat logo
Please help us celebrate the Class of 2020 by using this cover photo!
(Image Courtesy of Davidson College)

If you would like to join the online Commencement celebration, please visit Davidson College’s “Commencement” webpage for more information.

Commencement quirks and oddities

College commencements always carry a tension between a sense of decorum and even solemnity and a desire for celebratory frivolity. Davidson has had some unusual commencements.

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