Commencement at MU Header graphic

The nature of commencement celebrations has taken many forms throughout the university's history. Through taking a look at the speakers, the titles of their speeches, and some photographs exhibiting different traditions associated with the exercises, one can see how commencement celebrations at the University of Missouri have come to be what they are today.

Note: The University Archives does not posess the texts of every speech, but throughout the list more information, possibly including speech texts, is provided when possible. Also, the researcher is encouraged to search our holdings to find more information.

Note: All images are thumbnails to larger photographs. Click on the thumbnails to see the pictures in greater detail.

1850s 1860s 1870s 1880s 1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s

Program to 1843 'Scheme of Exercises'
The first commencement at MU, in November 1843, had only two graduates and lasted three hours. The graduates, cousins Robert B. and Robert L. Todd, were cousins of Abraham Lincoln's wife Mary.
(University Archives, C:0/51/1)

November 28, 1843

April 25, 1844

July 7, 1845

July 30, 1846

August 5, 1847

August 24, 1848

August 29, 1849

July 4, 1856

July 3, 1858

July 4, 1860

June 28, 1865

June 24, 1875

July 1, 1876

June 7, 1877

1878 Commencement Program Cover
Program from 1878 Commencement.
(University Archives, UW:1/4/1, Box 4 FF 3)

June 6, 1878

June 3, 1880

1881 Commencement Program with a Far-Eastern Motif
Program from 1881 commencement.
(University Archives, C:0/18/1)

June 2, 1881

June 1, 1882

June 7, 1883

June 5, 1884

June 4, 1885

June 3, 1886

March 24, 1887

May 31, 1888

June 6, 1889

June 5, 1890

June 4, 1891

June 2, 1892

June 1, 1893

June 7, 1894

June 5, 1895

June 3, 1896

June 2, 1897

June 1, 1898

June 7, 1899

June 6, 1900

June 5, 1901

Mark Twain in Cap and Gown
Mark Twain with MU Curators in 1902. The author was given an honorary LLD degree.
(University Archives, C:1/141/8, Box 1, FF 150)

June 4, 1902

June 4, 1903

June 1, 1904

June 7, 1905

June 6, 1906

August 10, 1906

June 5, 1907

June 3, 1908

June 2, 1909

June 9, 1910

June 8, 1911

June 13, 1912

June 15, 1913

June 4, 1914

June 3, 1915

June 1, 1916

June 6, 1917

June 5, 1918

April 23, 1919

April 22, 1920

April 27, 1921

April 26, 1922

April 25, 1923

June 4, 1924

August 1, 1924

June 3, 1925

August 1, 1925

June 9, 1926

August 4, 1926

June 8, 1927

August 5, 1927

June 6, 1928

August 3, 1928

June 5, 1929

Outdoor Assembly at North Entrance to Campus
A small crowd at the 1929 Summer Commencement.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 9)

August 2, 1929

A Large Crowd of Graduates Seated in Brewer
1930 Commencement ceremony
(University Archives, C: 1/141/1, Box 2, FF 11)

June 4, 1930

August 1, 1930

1931's Youngest Graduate with 1931's Oldest Graduate
An Office of Public Information photo of 1931 Commencement's oldest and youngest graduates.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 13)

June 3, 1931

A Female Graduate Uses a Small Shovel to Plant Ivy
Taken in 1931, graduates plant ivy at the base of the columns. This tradition is no longer practiced, as the ivy was found to be damaging to the structures.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 13)

July 31, 1931

Brewer, in Military Uniform, Leads Graduates
Chief Marshall Chester Brewer leading the academic procession in 1932. The procession would begin at Jesse Hall, go around the columns, down Hitt Street and end at what is now known as Brewer Fieldhouse.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 15)

June 8, 1932

August 5, 1932

June 7, 1933

August 4, 1933

June 6, 1934

August 3, 1934

June 5, 1935

August 2, 1935

June 3, 1936

July 31, 1936

A Male Graduate Uses a Spade to Plant a Tree
Another tradition was the planting of trees by graduates. Here, in 1937.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 24)

June 9, 1937

August 6, 1937

June 7, 1938

August 5, 1938

A Male Graduate Lays a Wreath on the Ground
In 1939, a graduate places a wreath at Memorial Union to commemorate those who had died serving in the military.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 24)

June 6, 1939

August 4, 1939

June 4, 1940

August 2, 1940

June 13, 1941

August 8, 1941

June 9, 1942

August 7, 1942

June 11, 1943

July 23, 1943

September 3, 1943

June 16, 1944

September 8, 1944

June 6, 1945

Bradley, in Uniform, Stands Near Podium
In 1946, General Omar Bradley was Commencement Speaker as well as the recipient of an honorary LLD degree.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 34)

June 6, 1946

June 5, 1947

A Man in Robe Speaks at a Podium
Baccalaureate Sermons were a common part of Commencement Proceedings. Here, in 1948, is one of the last, as they were cancelled in 1951.
(University Archives, C:1/141/6, Box 2A)

June 4, 1948

Middlebush and McReynolds Stand Side-by-side Near Diplomas
MU President Frederick Middlebush and Senator Allen McReynolds standing next to diplomas in 1949.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 40)

Benton Approaches the Podium
Artist Thomas Hart Benton was given an honorary Doctorate of Arts in 1949.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 40)

June 1, 1949

Truman Speaks at Podium, into Several Microphones
Missouri-born President Harry S. Truman was Commencement speaker in 1950.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 43)

June 9, 1950

Wide Shot of Graduates and Columns
Academic procession passing by the columns in 1951.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 46)

June 8, 1951

June 5, 1952

Graduates, Led by Color Guard, in front of Memorial Union
Academic procession passing by Memorial Union in 1953.
(University Archives, C:1/141/1, Box 2, FF 50)

June 7, 1953

June 12, 1954

June 1955

Ellis at Podium with Electric Fan
Elmer Ellis delivers brief remarks at Summer Commencement, 1956 in an un-air conditioned Jesse Hall. A formal address was eliminated to provide time for graduates to receive diplomas.
(University Archives, C: 1/141/1, Box 3, FF 57)

June 6, 1956

June 8, 1957

August 2, 1957

June 6, 1958

August 1, 1958

June 9, 1959

August 7, 1959

June 7, 1960

August 5, 1960

June 6, 1961

August 4, 1961

June 5, 1962

August 3, 1962

June 4, 1963

August 2, 1963

June 9, 1964

August 7, 1964

June 8, 1965

August 6, 1965

June 7, 1966

August 5, 1966

June 6, 1967

August 4, 1967

Aerial Shot of Seated Graduates and Audience near Columns
Summer 1968 Commencement ceremony on Francis Quadrangle.
(University Archives, C:1/141/9, Box 1, FF 3)

June 4, 1968

August 2, 1968

June 3, 1969

August 1, 1969

Cronkite Speaks at Podium
In 1970 journalist Walter Cronkite gave the Commencement speech and received an honorary Doctorate of Letters.
(University Archives, C: 1/141/9, Box 1, FF 6)

June 2, 1970

August 7, 1970

June 1, 1971

August 6, 1971

August 4, 1972

May 15, 1973

August 3, 1973

August 2, 1974

May 10, 1975

August 1, 1975

May 8, 1976

July 30, 1976

May 14, 1977

August 5, 1977

May 13, 1978

May 12, 1979

August 3, 1979

May 10, 1980

August 1, 1980

May 9, 1981

July 31, 1981

May 15, 1982

August 6, 1982

May 14, 1983

August 3, 1983

July 27, 1984

May 18, 1985

August 2, 1985

May 17, 1986

August 1, 1986

May 12, 1990

December 16, 1990

May 11, 1991

May 16, 1992

May 16, 1993

May 15, 1994

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Copyright © Curators of the University of Missouri 1997 - 2002
Published by: University Archives muarchives.missouri.edu/
Prepared by Rob Ryan
Revised: 11 April 2006
URL: http://muarchives.missouri.edu/exh_commencement.html

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