Commencement Traditions

Academic Attire 

Colorful attire worn by the graduates, faculty, and administrative staff at Commencement has an historic background that dates back to noted universities of medieval times. Since many of the students at that time were clerics, the gown appears to be patterned after garb worn by the priests or friars during their years at the university.


The current trend for academic attire in the United States can be traced to the late 19th century when the use of the gown, hood, and mortarboard became the generally accepted pattern at commencements. 


Three different styles of gown are worn, with special emphasis on the cut and shape of the sleeves and trim of the garment. The bachelor’s gown has pleated front panels and long pointed sleeves. The master’s gown has closed sleeves with squared ends which fall below the knees. 


Three velvet bars on each sleeve and velvet panels down the front of the garment distinguish the doctoral gown. The color of the panels and sleeve bars may vary according to the academic field in which the degree was taken or the granting institution’s tradition or both. The fabric of all gowns may be other than black in color according to an institution’s tradition. Black is most common. 


The hood also has a distinguishing character. Variation in size and style indicates the degree earned. The colors in the satin lining are those of the college or university which granted the degree, and the velvet panel is the degree color. A traditional black mortarboard cap is generally worn in the United States, but an octagonal tam is becoming popular with those who hold doctorates.



The Mace 

The Mace is an ornamental staff dedicated to the institution or body whose significance it displays. Benedictine College’s Mace was crafted by a German artist and displays Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica on either side of the staff. It is topped by the outstretched arms of Christ over the Benedictine College seal. Representative of the two founding institutions, St. Benedict’s College and Mount St. Scholastica College, as well as Benedictine College, the Mace is proudly carried and displayed in a prominent place during times of great academic importance.