Thursday, May 3, 2018

CMU Commencement Traditions

by Sam Flees and Katie Wilson

Central Michigan University has many celebrations documented in its archives: the J-Hop dance, freshman cap burning, and Gentle Friday ice cream cones from CM Life are just a few of the Central traditions that have been a part of student life of years past. One of the most continuously evolving events at CMU is the graduation experience. Graduating is a time of accomplishment and recognition. During the 1950s and 1960s, honor students were distinguished by ribbon rosettes worn on the lapels of their robes. White ribbons signified Cum Laude, red signified Magna Cum Laude and blue signified Summa Cum Laude. Today, honor students are distinguished by cords and medallions; Summa Cum Laude and Magna Cum Laude graduates receive medallions and Cum Laude graduates receive cords.

Students with their honors ribbon rosettes, 1955.

There have been other ways in which the graduation celebrations have evolved over the years at Central Michigan University. One tradition that came and went was Senior Swingout. Senior Swingout was a tradition for graduating seniors from 1930 through the late 1960s. It marked the first time seniors would don their caps and gowns. The name comes from the act of students swinging open the doors of the Administration Building (now Warriner Hall) and leaving for one last tour of the campus. This gave them an opportunity to reminisce about the good memories, the friendships created, and the hardships faced here in Mt. Pleasant.

In the early days of the Swingout, as students walked through the doors of the Administration Building out to the lawn and embraced their newly completed education, two hundred Japanese lanterns lit up the pathways around campus with orange and gold. As they walked, a double male quartet sang the “Alma Mater” creating a fitting atmosphere to conclude the journey they had at Central. In later years, President Anspach would address the students from the tower of Warriner Hall, wishing them well and offering words of wisdom the evening before commencement exercises.

Congratulations to all of this year’s graduates who will be swinging out of the doors of the John G. Kulhavi Student Events Center and McGuirk Arena this weekend!