From the grand processions to the elegant robes adorned with pins, stoles, and cords, graduation season is usually a time of pomp and circumstance. This year, thousands of University of Iowa graduates found less conventional ways to celebrate when concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic canceled spring commencement ceremonies nationwide. Spring 2020 UI graduates participated in a virtual graduation and have the option to walk in a fall 2020 or spring 2021 ceremony.
In the absence of the usual festivities this spring, Iowa Magazine welcomes the Class of 2020 to the alumni family and reflects on the Hawkeye graduation traditions that we often take for granted.
Perhaps the zaniest of Iowa's lost graduation traditions is the Senior Frolic, a spring festival launched in 1909 and held annually by the senior class during commencement week for 20 years. Students took a day off classes and paraded to City Park, where they competed in games such as three-legged races, greased-pole climbs, and tugs-of-war. In Senior Frolic's inaugural year, Iowa Alumnus, a previous iteration of Iowa Magazine, reported "a weird performance in which most of [the seniors] joined hands and circled about a few who with due ceremony and incantation proceeded to burn notebooks and 'wash their hands' of certain courses which had been inflicted upon them in the University."
In May 2014, Xingyu "Star" Shen (17BA), a Chinese international student interested in emceeing, led an effort to stream the Henry B. Tippie College of Business commencement ceremony live online with Chinese commentary so families on the other side of the globe could watch. Since then, International Programs has enlisted the help of student, faculty, and staff volunteers to interpret Iowa graduation ceremonies in the following languages:
In the usual sea of black caps and gowns, graduates still manage to express their individuality through what they wear on their heads. Hawkeyes exercise their creativity by decorating their graduation caps at a Campus Activities Board-sponsored event with messages like "Next Step: Nursing School" and "Hotter by One Degree."
UI College of Nursing students make a splash heading into commencement season. The tradition began with seniors from the Class of 2014, who decided to celebrate their graduation by plunging into the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center pool—scrubs and all. The late nursing professor and professional photographer Jo Eland (70BSN, 74MA, 80PhD) captured the inaugural jump on camera, and it's been photographed almost every year since.
Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa. Here are the top five places for Hawkeyes to take their picture before they leave campus:
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Iowa has awarded honorary degrees intermittently since 1962 for extraordinary achievements. Past recipients include former U.S. chief justice Earl Warren (62LLD), broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw (10LHD), and author Marilynne Robinson (17LHD). Here's the full list of recipients.
Once a Hawkeye, Always a Hawkeye means your connection to the University of Iowa doesn't end after graduation. Visit foriowa.org to share your news, join an Iowa Club in your area, and discover other ways you can stay involved with the UI community.