Commencement Exercises Reference collection, 1850-2023

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Duke University. University Archives
The Commencement Exercises Reference Collection contains commencement programs; addresses, speeches, and sermons; and associated material.
6.75 Linear Feet
Material in English
Collection ID:
University Archives Record Group:
01 -- General Information and University History
01 -- General Information and University History > 11 -- Reference Collections


Scope and content:

The collection contains programs, transcripts or copies of commencement and baccalaureate addresses, invitations, announcements, honorary degree citations, instructions to participants, news clippings, lists of speakers, Bibles, sample diplomas, and other materials pertaining to commencement ceremonies. From 1850 through 1927, one folder typically holds materials from several years' ceremonies, whereas in more recent years, one's year's ceremony may take more than one folder.

Biographical / historical:

On November 21, 1852 the State of North Carolina authorized Normal College, Duke's predecessor institution, "to grant such degrees and marks of honor as are given by colleges and universities generally." The institution first awarded A.B. degrees the following year, and thus 1853 is our "degree date." Two brothers, D. C. and Lemuel Johnson, were the recipients, and made up the first graduating class. The 2009 commencement was the one hundred and fifty seventh. The University began printing commencement numbers on the programs in 1932, when that year's was marked as the eightieth commencement. The count therefore was started with the 1853 ceremony. Union Institute and Normal College did celebrate commencement before 1853; however no degrees were awarded at those ceremonies.

Acquisition information:
This collection was compiled from a variety of sources by the University Archives for use in reference and research.
Processing information:

Processed by Tom Harkins, March 2010

Encoded by Josh Larkin Rowley, November 2010

Updated by Molly Bragg, July 2011

Accessions were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Commencement Exercises Reference Collection, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.