Time-honored traditions for the Class of 2017

artist's conception of Safeco Field ceremony

Artist's conception of graduation ceremony in Safeco Field.

The University of Washington Bothell’s commencement ceremony is a tradition that punctuates a chapter in life and links to academic history going back centuries. Here are some things you may not know. According to the American Council on Education and other sources:

The commencement procession is typically led by the speakers, trustees, administrative officers and other members of the platform party, followed in order by the faculty and then candidates for degrees, with candidates for advanced degrees in the lead and others in groups according to the degrees for which they are candidates.

Wolf Yeigh, Sherman Alexie, Susan JeffordsProcession music
The sound of graduation, the “Pomp and Circumstance” march, was originally composed in 1901 by Sir Edward Elgar for the coronation of King Edward VII. It became associated with graduations in 1905 when it was played as Elgar received an honorary doctorate from Yale.

Cap and Gown
Caps and gowns are steeped in traditions that are reflected in colors and designs tied to the degree conferred. Above left are Chancellor Wolf Yeigh, last year's speaker Alexie Sherman and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan Jeffords. Recipients of a master’s degree may wear a gown with a specific hood. Tassels also convey meaning through their color. A relatively new practice is to shift the tassel from the right front side to the left after the degree is awarded.

Bill Erdly with the maceMace
The mace is easier to figure out. It looks like a cudgel because the original mace was a weapon. It evolved to become a symbol of authority. Now, a mace is an ornamental staff carried by a high official in a ceremony. At the University’s commencement it’s hefted by the chair of the General Faculty Organization, which last year was Associate Professor Bill Erdly, above left.

Melvin LelandNow it’s our turn
The UW Bothell Class of 2017 connects with those traditions in its commencement ceremony at 4 p.m. June 13 at Safeco Field in Seattle. This is the first year the ceremony is being held at the stadium. About 1,400 of the 2,000 grads are expected to walk in front of an audience of family and friends. The keynote speaker is former astronaut Leland Melvin, left.

Last year, right, about 1,300 of UW Bothell’s 1,800 grads filled the Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion on the Seattle UW campus. After UW Bothell’s founding in 1990, three students graduated in 1991. There were 26 grads at the first formal commencement ceremony in 1992. By 2005, the number had grown to 673. Commencement was held in Hec Edmundson Pavilion that year and the keynote speaker was Donna Berry, a UW faculty member.

When it started 27 years ago in a business park with 126 students and 13 faculty members, the University of Washington Bothell offered a bachelor’s in liberal arts degree. By 2005, the University offered four bachelor’s degrees, four master’s degrees and two certificates. UW Bothell currently offers 33 bachelor’s degrees – 50, including concentrations, options, pathways and certificates – and 14 master’s degrees.

Best Day logo

Registration for this year’s commencement is open until May 19. You must register to take part in the ceremony. All the information is available online. Pay particular attention to the Grad Fair May 23-25 in the North Creek Events Center.

The planning and logistics for the big event, especially at a new location, are extensive, involving 150 faculty and staff members. The work is led again this year by Lisa Walker, assistant director in the office of advancement and external relations, and her staff who are dedicated to making it the graduates’ best day ever.

2016 commencement ceremony


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Office of Advancement and External Relations:
19128 112th Ave NE, Suite 102
Bothell, WA 98011

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Maria Lamarca Anderson
Director of Communications
206-960-3851 (mobile)
425-352-5461 (desk)

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