One Hundred Years to Commencement: The 1915 Graduation at Illinois

One hundred years ago, the University of Illinois graduating class of 1915 prepared to receive their diplomas at the 44th annual Commencement ceremony. While the class of 2015 will throw their caps at Memorial Stadium, the 1915 commencement ceremony took place in the Armory, with further formalities held on the Main Quad [1].

Commencement procession at the Armory, 1915. Retrieved from R.S. 39/2/22

Commencement procession at the Armory, 1915. Retrieved from R.S. 39/2/22

Commencement ceremonies on the Quad, c. 1915. Retrieved from R.S. 39/2/22

Commencement ceremonies on the Quad, c. 1915. Retrieved from R.S. 39/2/22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 1915 Commencement was attended by His Excellency Dr. Romulo Naon, who was listed in the commencement program as by his full title ‘Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from the Argentine Republic’, and who served as the Commencement speaker. While some 1915 Illinois graduates earned diplomas in degree programs that graduates can still earn today – Agriculture, Mechanical Engineering – others gained degrees in now unknown programs like Household Sciences and Floriculture [2].

Retrieved from the 1916 Illio, R.S. 41/8/816

The 1914-1915 University football team. Retrieved from the 1916 Illio, R.S. 41/8/816

The students of 1915 still cheered for Illinois baseball, football, and basketball teams, though did so while dressed a little differently than today’s Illini. Female students would have worn long, ankle-length skirts and dresses [3], while the men may have worn lounge suits [4]. The 1915 graduates had watched from afar as the Central Power and the Allies plunged into the Great War (World War I). Though then-President Woodrow Wilson embraced a policy of neutrality the United States would eventually join the fight two years after the graduation, in 1917 [5]. On a lighter note, the students’ 1914-1915 school year had seen the introduction of products and character we are still familiar with today, including the first domestic electronic dishwasher, Doublemint chewing gum, and Edgar Rice Burrogh’s character Tarzan of the Apes [6].

Students at the 1914-1915 year Junior Prom. Retrieved from the 1916 Illio, R.S. 41/8/816.

Students at the 1914-1915 year Junior Prom. Retrieved from the 1916 Illio, R.S. 41/8/816.

This coming weekend, the Illinois class of the 2015 will don their caps and gowns in order to follow in the footsteps of their 1915 predecessors. They will carry their Illinois education into a world which, though different in many aspects compared to the world of 1915, will still require the same ingenuity and fortitude as it did of the class of 1915. Though the Alma Mater statue had not yet been dedicated on campus when the class of 1915 left Illinois, we can well imagine them conveying her message to the students of the class of 2015: To thy happy children / of the future / those of the past / send greetings.

 

 

References:

[1] Forty-fourth University of Illinois Commencement Program, 1915. Box 1, Record Series 2/0/803, University of Illinois Archives.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Women’s Clothing.” uvm.edu/landscape. Landscape Change Program, 2011. Web. 14 May, 2015.

[4] “Men’s Fashion.” uvm.edu/landscape. Landscape Change Program, 2011. Web. 14 May, 2015.

[5] “WWI Timeline.” pbs.org/greatwar. Community Television of Southern California. Web. 14 May, 2015.

[6] “1914.” The Hutchinson Chronology of World History. Abington: Helicon, 2014. Credo Reference. Web. 14 May 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

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