143 Years of Commencement Exhibit

April 2019
Central Library Lobby


The first Vanderbilt University Commencement took place in the chapel of the Main building, now known as Kirkland Hall, on June 20, 1877.  The fledgling university granted 10 degrees in the Arts & Sciences and 52 in Medicine.  The week of Commencement included Founder’s Day festivities, the annual debates of the literary societies, and oratorical contests for the Founder’s Medal.  Since then, the Commencement ceremony has moved to Alumni Lawn, the number of degrees is approaching 4,000, and the Founder’s Medal is awarded to the top student in each college.  The week of Commencement includes The Party at Ingram Commons, the award of the Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal and Senior Day Speaker, and Strawberries and Champagne on Library Lawn.  Join us in celebrating 143 years of Vanderbilt University Commencement!

The exhibit includes an 1879 invitation to an oratory contest, photographs from the 1982 Law Commencement and 1984 Owen Graduate School of Management Commencement, a leather-bound Commencement program from 1918, a Founder’s Medal and Warner Medal awarded to R.H. Kirby (1918 and 1917, respectively), a 1902 Commencement ribbon, and more.

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