Traditions

The University of Chicago confers degrees in a ceremony we call Convocation, allowing students to receive their degrees following successful completion of the requirements of their academic programs. Literally a “calling together,” the University’s Convocation assembles all elements of the University community: degree candidates and their families and friends, faculty, deans, officers and trustees of the University, the provost, and the president.

It is significant that the University of Chicago has always referred to these occasions as Convocations rather than as “commencement exercises” or “graduation ceremonies.” Receiving a degree marks neither a new beginning nor a termination. Although for degree candidates it may be a rite of passage, the ceremony focuses on continuity in the search for knowledge. 

The first Convocation was celebrated in January 1893 under founding president William Rainey Harper. Harper told those present that the ceremony was intended “to bind together into a unity the many complex and diverging forms of activity which constitute our university life and work.”

This is a University-wide ceremony involving degree candidates from all divisions and schools. It will include the presentation of honorary degrees and an address from the Convocation speaker. Convocation Addresses consistently focus on the pursuit of knowledge and the power of ideas. The University president, Robert J. Zimmer, will verbally confer degrees on candidates by division and school. Each division and school will host a separate ceremony where degree candidates will be honored individually through the presentation of diplomas or hoods.

The 533rd Convocation of the University of Chicago promises to be an exciting and memorable day for graduating students. We look forward to welcoming family and friends to celebrate in their achievement.

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