Ceremony Traditions

Commencement provides an opportunity to celebrate Towson University's most special traditions.

faculty graduate hug

Many Commencement ceremony traditions are centuries old. Additionally, there are several components of Commencement that are unique to Towson University. The academic traditions and symbols used during our ceremonies distinguish Commencement from any other university event.

Ceremony Regalia 

The black caps and gowns worn by students, faculty and other participants in the academic procession have been the traditional costume of the scholar since the medieval times and probably represent an adaptation of the ecclesiastical dress since many of the scholars of that period were members of monastic orders. Ceremony regalia and academic colors are governed by the Academic Costume Code.

bachelor's candidates

The bachelor’s gown is distinguished by its long pointed sleeves. The mortarboard (cap) is black and covered with the same fabric as the gown. Decorated caps may not be worn during the ceremony.

Master's candidates

The master’s gown has longer, narrower closed sleeves, extending below the knee; the arm is passed through a slit at the elbow. The mortarboard (cap) is black and covered with the same fabric as the gown. Decorated caps may not be worn during the ceremony.

Doctoral candidates

The doctoral gown has a full bell-shaped sleeve with three bars of velvet and an opening faced with wide velvet bands. The velvet trim may be black or of a color indicating the field of learning of the wearer or the institution from which the wearer earned their highest degree. Doctoral candidates wear tams, soft velvet caps with four, six or eight corners.

Ceremony Symbols

Academia uses symbols from historical sources, as well as symbols unique to the individual academic institution.

mace

The ceremonial academic mace first appeared in European universities during the 14th century and was carried before royalty, mayors of cities, and chief officers of the medieval universities. It is carried into the ceremony to signify the start of the processional by the Grand Marshal, one of the longest-serving faculty members at the university.

The Towson University mace was commissioned and gifted by President Emerita Maravene Loeschke. It was designed and executed by four very talented TU faculty members in the College of Fine Arts and Communication: Joshua DeMonte, Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Object Design; Jenn Figg, Associate Professor, 3D Foundations; Kimberly Hopkins, Lecturer, Graphic Design; and Jon Lundak, Assistant Professor, Sculpture.

Gonfalons and banner carriers

Gonfalons are ceremonial banners carried on a long pole by students to represent each college, graduate studies and the Honors College. The student banner carriers are specially selected by their colleges to represent one of the three entities for each ceremony. Banner carriers symbolically lead their classmates into the future by carrying the banner at the head of the commencement procession into the SECU Arena. It is a very special honor to be chosen as a banner carrier.

presidential medallion

The medallion is circular, symbolizing the continuous impact that Towson University has in the lives of those who learn here. The outermost circle contains the university name and location. At the center is the University Seal with its shield which incorporates the Great Seal of Maryland’s Calvert and Crossland arms quartered. Above the shield are the original earl’s coronet and the pennants, and again, the university’s founding year, 1866, is inscribed on a banner beneath.

university seal

The University Seal is adapted from the reverse of the Great Seal of Maryland. At its center is an escutcheon, or shield, bearing the Calvert and Crossland arms, quartered on an antiqued gold background. Above is an earl’s coronet and the pennants that inspired the Towson University logo. The university’s founding year, 1866, is inscribed on a banner beneath.

Ceremony Traditions

University traditions provide a common thread through graduates' experiences, and instill pride in the institution.

Alma mater

A graduating student sings the Towson University Alma Mater at the close of every Commencement ceremony. In celebration of TU’s 150th anniversary, members of a committee collaborated to write a new Alma Mater. The music was composed by J. Kyle Richards and orchestrated by Brian Balmages.

Stephens hall bell tower

Stephens Hall is the oldest original building on the campus. Its history and lore have become part of our students’ college experience. The bell tower is especially beautiful, and as part of a fairly new tradition in honor of our new graduates, the Stephens Hall bells will toll 16 times at the start of our ceremony, one for each member of the first graduating class.

university commencement

Every May, one Commencement ceremony features a prominent Commencement Speaker from outside of the university community. The ceremony with this notable speaker will be designated as the University Commencement. Although one ceremony will carry this designation, all ceremonies are equally significant to our university community.