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RIT Commencement and Convocation collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RITArc-0571

Scope and Contents

Commencement planning documents from 1931-1988 include lists of invited guests, dossiers of speakers, formal invitations, newsclippings about the commencement speakers, convocation tickets, radio broadcast scripts, and correspondence.

Commencement programs became official in 1885 when the first classes were offered and continue straight through to the present in paper. Included are names of the speakers who gave commencement addresses and some transcripts of the addresses beginning in 1892. A list of the speakers is attached to this record.

Banners are created for each college to carry during the commencement processional. In 2009, two such banners were donated to the RIT Archives. One banner is for the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS), the other is American College of Management and Technology (ACMT) in Croatia, now known as RIT Croatia.

Also included in the collection are individual college ceremonies on VHS videotape from 1993 through 2003, and beginning with 2004 they are reproduced on DVDs. Included is a special video shown at the 1997 RIT Academic Convocation called Matt's Special Room which is a 9 minute recap of the year at RIT.


  • Creation: 1892-2019

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

The earliest RIT Commencement address dates back to the first year the Institute became official, 1892. There were no degrees given then but an annual speaker gave an address to Institute members. The first was Frederic B. Pratt, President of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. In 1910, it appears that Edward G. Miner, the VP. and General Manager of Pfaudler Co. in Rochester, NY gave the address on "Industrial Education" at the graduating exercises. At this time certificates were handed out for courses completed.

The Academic Convocation celebrates the graduates from all nine of RIT's colleges, the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies, and the Golisano Institute for Sustainability and features a procession of the graduates wearing their caps and gowns, the official conferral of degrees by the RIT President, and a commencement address by an invited dignitary. Following that, each of the colleges have their own commencement ceremonies and receptions.

In the earliest days of the Institute, graduates would dress in garb signifying their department: for example, Domestic Science graduates wore caps and aprons, while Art School graduates wore smocks. After World War I and before 1955, graduates dressed in street clothes, the women usually wearing white. Caps and gowns were first worn in 1955. The faculty began to wear academic hoods in 1961.

First awarded certificate -1892; diploma - 1916; associate's degree - 1952; bachelor's degree - 1955; master's degree - 1960.


20 Linear Feet (3 cartons and 34 document boxes. Also included 14 bound volumes )




RIT Convocation and Commencment records include planning documents, speakers addresses, and programs from 1892 to present. The collection includes paper records, photographs, videotape and DVDs.


The collection is in chronological order.

Other Finding Aids

In addition to this finding aid, an inventory is available below. For more information, please contact the RIT Archive Collections.

RIT Commencement and Convocation records

Immediate Source of Acquisition

RIT Commencement records have been deposited to the RIT Archives annually.

Related Materials

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Jody Sidlauskas in March 2015.

RIT Commencement and Convocation collection
RIT Archives
Jody Sidlauskas
10 March 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 1/19/2023: Added 14 document boxes from legacy files of commencement/convocation

Repository Details

Part of the RIT Archives Repository

Rochester NY 14623 USA