Quick facts about St. Mary’s College’s Commencement:
- Though St. Mary’s was founded in 1840, it was not a four-year baccalaureate institution until 1971, when it awarded 25 bachelor of arts and 13 bachelor of science degrees. That Commencement ceremony was held on the State House lawn at Historic St. Mary’s City. William V. Shannon of The New York Times was the Commencement speaker.
- In 1972, the graduating class was double the size of the previous year, with 79 bachelor of arts and 23 bachelor of science degrees awarded. Former St. Mary’s president May Russell gave the 1972 Commencement address.
- The College mace, acquired by the inimitable Jonathan Ingersoll of the Art Department, was carved by Williamsburg artists Nancy and Earl Hopkins, using St. Mary’s County black walnut. It was first used at the 1981 Commencement, where Velma Perkins, professor of English and a fixture at St. Mary’s since the early 1960s, carried it to lead the academic procession.
- Each year, the mace bearer is chosen by the Faculty Senate.
- The bachelor of science degree was discontinued in 1983, when all graduates were awarded the bachelor of arts degree.
- In 1988, Commencement moved from the State House lawn at Historic St. Mary’s City to the Townhouse Green. Opposing the plans of the administration, seniors request that their seats face the river rather than the raised patio of Daugherty-Palmer Commons.
- Honorary degrees have been given over the years at St. Mary’s to thank those who’ve made distinguished contributions to society through their life’s work, among them Edward Fiske, Paul Sarbanes, Ben Bradlee, Steny Hoyer, Rita Colwell, Michael Beschloss, Ted Koppel.
Facts taken from Fred Fausz’s “Monument School of the People,” Janet Haugaard’s “St. Mary’s: A ‘When-Did?’ Timeline” (with Sue Wilkinson and Julia King), and Renwick Jackson’s “The Golden Run.”