Southern Methodist University

Southern Methodist University convocation and commencement records

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Southern Methodist University
Title: Southern Methodist University convocation and commencement records
Dates: 1916-(ongoing)
Abstract: This collection contains material on SMU’s convocation ceremonies from 1916 through 2008. Most of the material relates to university commencement exercises, and the other activities held to recognize graduates. Convocation is defined as any official university gathering of faculty and students. Commencement is the actual ceremony of granting diplomas to those who have completed courses of study, and the term can also be used to refer to the day or weekend on which this happens. Most of the documents in this collection are commencement programs. Also included are some internal memoranda related to the planning and organization of commencement. The collection also holds recordings of commencement exercises on audiocassette, reel-to-reel, and VHS tapes, as well as on DVD. Because the ceremonies comprising each year’s convocation take place regularly, this collection will continue to grow as programs and other records from these events are received.
Accession No: SMU 1991.0064
Extent: 27 boxes (12.5 linear feet)
Language: Material is in English
Repository Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Historical Note

SMU was chartered in 1911 and opened for its first academic year in the fall of 1915. A number of university events have been held during the university’s nearly 100-year history to recognize the completion of degrees by students.

The type of events held has changed over the years. The most common event has been the commencement exercises at which degrees are conferred. This has traditionally been held at the end of the spring semester in May or June, but during SMU’s history, other commencement ceremonies have been held in February, August, October, and December.

In addition to the commencement ceremony, SMU has also held convocations or school assemblies to recognize outstanding students (Honors Day, Senior Recognition Day, Academic Awards ceremony) and religious services for those graduating. For many years, the university held a Convocation Religious Service (also called, at different times, the Convocation Sermon or the Baccalaureate Service), followed by an Organ Recital, and Senior Vespers. A religious service is still held today prior to commencement, but both the Organ Recital and Senior Vespers have long since been discontinued.

Other university convocation ceremonies have included opening convocations, at which administration and faculty officially welcome incoming freshmen students, and special convocations to honor important university visitors, such as the September 1975 convocation honoring U.S. President Gerald R. Ford.

The first series of commencement events was held on Sunday, June 11 and Tuesday, June 13, 1916. Graduates and their families attended a religious Convocation Service, as well as a Senior Vespers service that Sunday. Degrees were conferred on the first SMU graduating class two days later. The class was composed of graduates who had arrived at SMU for their senior year and students receiving masters’ degrees.

Over the years the listing of events celebrating commencement has changed. For example, events held in 1932 (the 17th Convocation, as described on the programs) included the Convocation Sermon, an Organ Recital, Senior Vespers, and the Commencement Exercises, held on June 5-7. The 1967 program included a Senior Vespers, Baccalaureate Service, and Commencement. By the 1980s, Commencement was divided up into the university-wide ceremony, and smaller ceremonies held for the various schools and departments within SMU (Dedman College, Cox School of Business, Perkins School of Theology, etc) at which graduates would actually receive their diplomas. Events held for the 1983 Commencement included Baccalaureate and Commencement Convocation, in addition to the smaller ceremonies.

By the 1930s, SMU was holding two commencement ceremonies per year, in May/June at the end of the spring semester, and in August/September around the beginning of the new academic year. In 1937, for example, the school held one commencement on June 1 in McFarlin Auditorium, and another, smaller ceremony later on August 20 in front of Dallas Hall (with both ceremonies comprising the 22nd Annual Convocation). During the 1940s, the university held other commencement ceremonies as needed, and during this period, SMU held 3 or even 4 graduations during the year. During 1945, commencement exercises took place in February, June, August, and October.

In the 1990s, SMU established a December Recognition Ceremony to honor students completing their degrees at the end of the fall semester. This later became the December Graduation Ceremony, and although it was not officially a convocation, the university continued to honor its graduates in the school-wide commencement exercises held each May.

This increase in the number of graduation ceremonies—and the need for larger venues for these ceremonies—has reflected SMU’s growth. The first several commencement convocations were held in the auditorium on the third floor of Dallas Hall. SMU’s gymnasium was briefly used during the 1920s for commencement activities until the construction of McFarlin Auditorium by the latter part of the decade. Commencement, as well as the Convocation Religious Service and Organ Recital were held there starting in 1927. The front steps of Dallas Hall became the location for the Senior Vespers service during the many years this event was held (it seems to have been discontinued by the 1970s). Ownby Stadium was also used for several ceremonies during the 1950s, and Moody Coliseum has been the site of commencement since 1956.

From the first commencement in 1916, the university’s administration emphasized the importance of observing the ceremony and solemnity of the gathering, as much as honoring those who were being granted degrees. Through the first half-century of SMU’s history, commencement was widely regarded as a cherished and essential part of each student’s college years. It represented the crowning moment for those who had successfully navigated the rigorous academic requirements, as well as a sort of “last hurrah,” since those who took part in commencement and received degrees were graduated, and thus finished with their college career.

It seems that from the 1960s onward, the general importance of commencement has faded somewhat, since that period marked the beginning of a greater accessibility of a college education to a greater number of people. The fact that more people have been able to go to college, and thus receive degrees, has removed some of the aura of uniqueness and majesty that colleges and universities tried to impart to their commencement convocations.

This more casual attitude toward the ceremony, as one member of SMU’s faculty has noted, resulted in “student denigration of, and absence from, commencement, decoration of regalia, drinking during the service, catcalls…and random participants’ departures during the ceremonies…All of this has occurred at many institutions—but, thankfully, in small numbers at Southern Methodist University.”


Southern Methodist University convocation and commencement records

Lorn Lambier Howard, “Southern Methodist University Commencement Development: 1916-1988,” written in 2007-08.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The material in the collection documents the convocations and other ceremonies held in celebration of commencement from 1916 until 2008. The collection holds programs for most of the ceremonies held during this period. The collection was compiled over time as programs from each year’s commencement activities and other convocations were saved, meaning that the overall scope is dependent on whoever was responsible for saving programs or other records from each event held.

Users should refer to the Convocation and Commencement Ceremony Listing, found in Box 1, Folder 5, for information on the date, time, location, and order of convocation events held each year. This compilation is based on the programs and information contained in this collection; as such, there may be some events not listed because no program for that event was saved.

In general, the events for each year’s convocations, locations, and names of graduates can easily be seen, as the collection holds multiple programs for the vast majority of SMU’s history. Users of this collection should take note that most of the records in this collection are the printed programs from convocation/commencement activities. Some internal administration documents regarding the organization and planning of commencement are also included, as well as a few copies of commencement speeches—these, however, are sporadic.

The collection is arranged into three series. The first covers the commencement activities and other convocation ceremonies throughout SMU's history from 1916 through 2008. The second series contains audiovisual recordings of ceremonies from 1979 through 2008. Users should note that these recordings are not all of the same media; audiocassette tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, videotapes, and DVDs were all used at different times to record convocation/commencement events, and are all contained in this second series. The third series contains memorabilia from past commencement ceremonies: a lantern used for the annual Baccalaureate service, commemorative paperweights, and ticketing stamps used for the 1992 commencement at which President George H.W. Bush spoke.

Users of this collection should take note of how convocations are numbered. For many years, it appears that the events of the annual convocation all took place during one calendar year. Each convocation began and ended within the same year. Starting in the 1940s (based on the Opening Convocation programs in Box 1, Folder 1), the beginning of a new convocation began with the beginning of a new school year, not the beginning of a new calendar year.

For example, the 20th Annual Convocation took place in 1935, and included the commencement exercises held in both May and August. The university held an opening ceremony later in September (as it seems to have done each year), but this event was not as yet a convocation. The 21st Annual Convocation began in 1936, the first event of which was the Convocation Religious Service in May of that year.

From the 1940s onward, this changed; the gathering that took place in the fall became the Opening Convocation, the first event of the new annual convocation. Thus, in 1994, the 79th Annual Convocation concluded with the commencement exercises held that spring; the 80th Annual Convocation began later that same year with the Opening Convocation in August.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into series:
Series 1: Convocation and Commencement Ceremony Records
Series 2: Convocation and Commencement Audiovisual Recordings
Series 3: Commencement Memorabilia


Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Southern Methodist University -- Congresses.
Southern Methodist University -- Students.
Academic rites and ceremonies -- Texas -- Dallas.
Commencement ceremonies -- Texas -- Dallas.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Southern Methodist University convocation and commencement records, Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

Transfer, Registrar, 1991.

Finding aid written by

Paul H. Santa Cruz, 2008.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2008.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Convocation and Commencement Ceremony Materials

Convocation and Commencement Opening Convocation, 1925-1990; Honors Day, 1947-1951
Box Folder
1 1 Opening Convocation, 1925-1960 (Note: one document from 1925; programs start with 1935; no programs for 1939, 1942, 1944-45, 1947-51, 1955—see Boxes 5-7)
2 Opening Convocation, 1961-1985 (Note: no programs for 1970, 1976-1979, 1982, 1985—see Boxes 10-14)
3 Opening Day Convocation, 1986-1990
4 SMU Commencement Development history, 1916-1988, written by Lorn Howard
5 Convocation and Commencement Ceremony Listing, 1916-2007
6 Convocation and Honors Day Programs, January 1947-August 1951 (bound volume)
7 Miscellaneous
Convocation and Commencement, 1916-1922
Box Folder
2 1 Compiled Programs, 1916-1935 (bound volume)
2 1st Convocation, 1916
3 2nd Convocation, 1917
4 3rd Convocation, 1918 (listed on programs as 2nd Convocation)
5 4th Convocation, 1919
6 5th Convocation, 1920
7 6th Convocation, 1921
8 7th Convocation, 1922
Convocation and Commencement, 1923-1928
Box Folder
3 1 8th Convocation, 1923
2 9th Convocation, 1924
3 10th Convocation, 1925
4 11th Convocation, 1926
5 12th Convocation, 1927
6 13th Convocation, 1928
Convocation and Commencement, 1929-1934
Box Folder
4 1 14th Convocation, 1929
2 15th Convocation, 1930
3 16th Convocation, 1931
4 17th Convocation, 1932
5 18th Convocation, 1933
6 19th Convocation, 1934
Convocation and Commencement, 1935-1944
Box Folder
5 1 Commencement Programs, 1936-1946 (bound volume)
2 20th Convocation, 1935
3 21st Convocation, 1936
4 22nd Convocation, 1937
5 23rd Convocation, 1938
6 24th Convocation, 1939
7 25th Convocation, 1940
8 26th Convocation, 1941
9 27th Convocation, 1942
10 28th Convocation, 1943
11 29th Convocation, 1944
Convocation and Commencement, 1945-1952
Box Folder
6 1 30th Convocation, 1945
2 31st Convocation, 1946
3 32nd Convocation, 1947
4 33rd Convocation, 1948
5 34th Convocation, 1949
6 35th Convocation, 1950
7 36th Convocation, 1951
8 37th Convocation, 1952
Convocation and Commencement, 1953-1957
Box Folder
7 1 38th Convocation, 1953
2 39th Convocation, 1954
3 40th Convocation, 1955
4 41st Convocation, 1956
5 42nd Convocation, 1957
6 Degrees Conferred Ledger, 1950s
Convocation and Commencement, 1958-1961
Box Folder
8 1 43rd Convocation, 1958
2 44th Convocation, 1959
3 45th Convocation, 1960
4 46th Convocation, 1961
Convocation and Commencement, 1962-1965
Box Folder
9 1 47th Convocation, 1962
2 48th Convocation, 1963
3 49th Convocation, 1964
4 50th Convocation, 1965
Convocation and Commencement, 1966-1970
Box Folder
10 1 51st Convocation, 1966
2 52nd Convocation, 1967
3 Bob Hope Convocation, April 3, 1967
4 53rd Convocation, 1968
5 54th Convocation, 1969
6 55th Convocation, 1970
Convocation and Commencement, 1971-1974
Box Folder
11 1 56th Convocation, 1971
2 57th Convocation, 1972
3 58th Convocation, 1973
4 59th Convocation, 1974
Convocation and Commencement, 1975-1979
Box Folder
12 1 60th Convocation, 1975
2 61st Convocation, 1976
3 62nd Convocation, 1977
4 63rd Convocation, 1978
5 64th Convocation, 1979
Convocation and Commencement, 1980-1983
Box Folder
13 1 65th Convocation, 1980
2 66th Convocation, 1981
3 67th Convocation, 1982
4 68th Convocation, 1983
Convocation and Commencement,1982-1987
Box Folder
14 1 Commencement Records, 1982-1987
2 69th Convocation, 1984
3 70th Convocation, 1985
4 71th Convocation, 1986
5 72nd Convocation, 1987
Convocation and Commencement, 1988-1990
Box Folder
15 1 73rd Convocation, 1988
2 74th Convocation, 1989
3 75th Convocation, 1990
Convocation and Commencement, 1991-1993
Box Folder
16 1 76th Annual Commencement Convocation, May 1991
2 Opening Convocation, 1991
3 Recognition Ceremony, December 1991
4 77th Annual Commencement Convocation, May 1992
5 May 1992 Commencement Records
6 Opening Convocation, 1992
7 78th Annual Commencement Convocation, May 1993
Convocation and Commencement, 1993-1995
Box Folder
17 1 1993 Commencement Convocation, continued
2 Opening Convocation, 1993
3 Recognition Ceremony, December 1993
4 79th Annual Commencement Convocation, May 1994
5 Opening Convocation, 1994
6 Recognition Ceremony, December 1994
7 80th Annual Commencement Convocation, May 1995
Convocation and Commencement, 1995-1997
Box Folder
18 1 Opening Convocation, 1995
2 Recognition Ceremony, December 1995
3 81st Annual Commencement Convocation, May 1996
4 Opening Convocation, 1996
5 December Graduation, 1996
6 82nd Annual Commencement Convocation, May 1997
7 Opening Convocation, 1997
8 December Graduation, 1997
Convocation and Commencement, 1998-2000
Box Folder
19 1 Honors Day Convocation, 1998
2 83rd Annual Commencement Convocation, May 1998
3 Opening Convocation, 1998
4 December Graduation, 1998
5 Honors Day Convocation, 1999
6 84th Annual Commencement Convocation, May 1999
7 85th Annual Commencement Convocation, May 2000
Convocation and Commencement, 2000-2002
Box Folder
20 1 Opening Convocation, 2000
2 December Graduation, 2000
3 86th Annual Commencement Convocation, May 2001
4 Opening Convocation, 2001
5 December Graduation, 2001
6 87th Annual Commencement Convocation, May 2002
7 December Graduation, 2002
Convocation and Commencement, 2003-2007
Box Folder
21 1 88th Annual Commencement Convocation, May 2003
2 89th Annual Commencement Convocation, May 2004
3 Opening Convocation, 2005
4 December Graduation, 2005
5 91st Annual Commencement Convocation, May 2006
6 92nd Annual Commencement Convocation, May 2007
7 92nd Commencement Convocation, continued
8 Opening Convocation, 2007
Convocation and Commencement, 2008-(ongoing)
Box Folder
22 1 93rd Annual Commencement Convocation, May 2008
2 93rd Commencement Convocation, continued

Series 2: Convocation and Commencement Audiovisual Recordings

Convocation and Commencement Reel to Reel Tapes, 1979-1981
Box Folder
23 1 Commencement, May 20, 1979
2 Commencement, May 18, 1980
3 Baccalaureate, May 18, 1980
4 Commencement, May 17, 1981
Convocation and Commencement Audiotapes, 1993-1999
Box Folder
24 1 Baccalaureate, 1993
2 Convocation, 1993
3 December Recognition, 1993
4 Baccalaureate, 1994
5 Convocation, August 28, 1994
6 December Recognition, December 10, 1994
7 Baccalaureate, May 19, 1995
8 Convocation, 1995
9 December Recognition, December 9, 1995
10 Bacalaureate, 1996
11 Convocation, August 25, 1996
12 December Graduation, December 14, 1996
13 Baccalaureate, May 1, 1997
14 Convocation, August 24, 1997
15 December Graduation, 1997
16 Baccalaureate, 1998
17 December Graduation, December 12, 1998
18 Baccalaureate, May 14, 1999
Convocation and Commencement Audiotapes, 2000-2007
Box Folder
25 1 Honors Day Convocation, April 27, 2000
2 Baccalaureate, May 19, 2000
3 Convocation, August 23, 2000
4 Baccalaureate, 2001
5 Convocation, August 22, 2001
6 December Graduation, December 14, 2002 (two tapes)
7 Baccalaureate, May 14, 2004
8 Convocation, August 18, 2004
9 Convocation, 2005
10 December Graduation, December 10, 2005 (three tapes)
11 Baccalaureate, May 18, 2007
12 Convocation, August 22, 2007
13 Organ Music
Convocation and Commencement Videotapes and DVDs, 1992-2008
Box Folder
26 1 Commencement, May 16, 1992; President George H.W. Bush (three tapes)
2 Commencement, May 22, 1993 (two tapes)
3 Commencement, 1994 (two tapes)
4 Baccalaureate, 1996
5 Commencement, 1996
6 December Graduation, 1997
7 Baccalaureate, May 18, 2007 (DVD)
8 Commencement, May 19, 2007 (DVD)
9 Commencement, Spring 2008 (DVD)

Series 3: Commencement Memorabilia

Commencement Memorabilia
Box Folder
27 1 Lantern used for Baccalaureate Services, 1990s
2 Paperweight, 2007 Commencement
3 Paperweight, 2008 Commencement (2)
4 Ticketing Stamps used for 1992 Commencement, President George H.W. Bush Commencement Speaker (14 stamps)