Looking back: Commencement 65 years ago

May 25, 2010

This excerpt from the College history, “Fearless and Bold” by James E. Lightner ’59, reveals some surprising similarities to the Commencement ceremony 2010. A nation at war, restricted travel (volcano dust clouds and gas prices may dictate that today), parties held for graduates and their families as well as the appointed hour of 2 o’clock for the formal procession and diploma ceremony.

In May 1945, the 75th Commencement was held, although the country was still at war with Japan and the U.S. Office of Defense Transportation was restricting travel. President Holloway wrote this for the WMC Bulletin:

“All of us rejoice in the good news of V-E Day. It makes us all the more anxious for the victorious end of the hostilities in the Far East. Hundreds of Western Marylanders are scattered throughout the earth. A steady flow of letters tells of their anxiety to be back on College Hill. Regulations of the O.D.T. compel us to conduct our Commencement activities on a purely local basis. We regret that this is the case and will miss the many alumni who normally come at this time of year. We hope that another twelve-month period will ease the travel situation, so that we can once more follow our normal commencement program with a great celebration.”

Commencement circa 1947; Professors Schofield and Bertholf lead the faculty and students to Alumni Hall

The 75th Commencement was a special one, nevertheless, since it included some activities not normally a part of the weekend. It began on Friday evening with the play “Papa Is All,” given by the College Players in Alumni Hall. Saturday focused on the seniors and their parents and featured a reception in the Robinson Garden, a special dinner in the dining hall, and a songfest in McDaniel Lounge to round out the evening. While there was no Alumni Banquet, the Alumni Association was able to hold its annual business meeting on Saturday afternoon. Sunday was a busy day, for, as in the two preceding years, Baccalaureate and Commencement were held on the same day, to minimize traveling. President Holloway preached the baccalaureate sermon at 10 a.m. The ceremony followed the traditional format, which included the Commandments and Responses from the graduates, psalms and scriptures, an anthem by the choir, and the processional and recessional hymns: “A Mighty Fortress” and “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” At 2 p.m. the Commencement ceremony got under way, the speaker being Madame Chu Shih-ming of the Chinese Embassy in Washington. Fifty-one women and 14 men received diplomas, and three honorary degrees were conferred, including one in absentia to the Rev. E. Pearce Hayes, a missionary in the Far East.

To order a copy of “Fearless and Bold,” go online here.