Amherst College Commencement Collection

The Commencement programs in the Amherst College Commencement Collection are now available in ACDC.

The Amherst College Commencement Collection contains commencement programs, news articles, speeches, class week programs and schedules of events, tickets for events held during class week and commencement, poems, student addresses and other items relating to commencements. We have chosen to digitize only the commencement programs from this collection for the time being, since these are particularly valuable for researchers.

Program of the 1936 Amherst College commencement ceremony
Program of the 1936 Amherst College commencement ceremony

The Amherst College Commencement programs are a source of information regarding the history of students, faculty, degrees, awards, and Commencement ceremonies at the College. The first Amherst College Commencement ceremony took place in 1822 when the college was known primarily as the Collegiate Institution. After charter was granted in 1825 the institution was thereafter known as Amherst College. Early commencement programs include only the order of exercises for the ceremony together with the names of the presenters and titles of exercises. Since 1826, most programs also include a list of candidates receiving their bachelor of arts degrees. Commencement ceremonies have varied over the years with early programs listing a relatively long order of exercises often including sacred music, orations, dialogues, prayers, poems, colloquies, disputations, conferences, discussions, and testimonials. Later programs list a shorter order of exercises including the processional, music, addresses, the conferring of degrees, presentations of awards, occasional tributes to the sheriff, and occasional salutes to retiring faculty. There are other variations in information in programs over the years such as an inclusion of class members in the army from 1863-1864, occasional lists of bachelor of science graduates from 1855-1924, a Grades of Scholarship section from 1863-1883, occasional lists of master’s degree recipients from 1901-1964, a list of honoras causa recipients from 1918-1919, lists of Certificates of Honorable Distinction recipients from 1920-1921, occasional lyrics and/or scores to “Memory Story of Amherst” and “The Soul of Old Amherst” from 1927-1938, lists of Certificate of Merit recipients from 1933-1935, and the Bond Fifteen list occasionally included from 1913-1972. Additions to commencement programs over the years include the categorization of graduates by Latin honors beginning in 1898, students receiving honors by department beginning in 1903, honorary master’s and doctoral degree recipients beginning in 1933, Medal for Eminent Service recipients beginning in 1934, a section describing the Degree with Honors (or Departmental Distinction) and listing honors theses beginning in 1954, a section providing background on the Commencement ceremony beginning in 1955, the lyrics to “Hymn to Amherst” beginning in 1965, a section on Independent Study beginning in 1967, a section on Field Study beginning in 1971, Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi honorary society members beginning in 1972, more detailed information on honorary degree and award recipients beginning in 2004, and Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore teaching awards recipients beginning in 2007.

This collection was ingested into ACDC in Year Two (2019) of our Bicentennial Project.

For more information
Related bicentennial collections