Commencement

We are excited to recognize the accomplishments of the Class of 2024 during commencement weekend, May 17–19, 2024.
 

 

Planning the Weekend

During a weekend of celebrations and academic rituals, we will honor the individual and collective accomplishments of the University’s new graduates. 

Main Events

Most families choose to arrive on campus on the Friday of commencement weekend and stay through the commencement ceremony, which ends around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.  A full weekend schedule will be posted by early May, but these are the main events.

Friday, May 17

  • 5:30–7:30 p.m. Commencement Dinner (For graduates and their guests. Meal is free of charge; cash bar.)

Saturday, May 18 

  • 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Academic Reception
  • 1:30–2:30 p.m. Commencement Seminars
  • 3:30–4:30 p.m. Baccalaureate Service (graduates line up at 3)
  • 7:45 p.m. Senior Lineup for Torchlight Procession 
  • 8:30 p.m. Senior Torchlight Procession
  • 9 p.m. President’s Reception (for graduates and their guests; free of charge)

Sunday, May 19 

  • 10:30 a.m. Commencement Ceremony
  • 5 p.m. On-Campus Housing Closes to all Seniors and Guests

Should severe weather affect the main outdoor events — such as postponement or cancellation of the Friday Commencement Dinner, Saturday Academic Reception, Torchlight Procession, or President’s Reception, or a move of Sunday’s ceremony indoors to Sanford Field House — announcements will be sent via campus email broadcast and the Colgate Mobile App as well as posted to this page, Facebook, and Twitter.

Commencement Ceremony Information

Tickets

Seating is open and tickets are not needed as long as the ceremony takes place as planned at Andy Kerr Stadium (outdoors). In case inclement weather forces the ceremony indoors, where seating will be limited, each graduate will be able to reserve up to 5 guest tickets for inclement weather seating. Graduates are responsible for reserving guest tickets. Each guest would need their own ticket, regardless of age.

General Information

  • Gates/doors open at 9 a.m.
  • The ceremony runs approximately 2½ hours.
  • There is no dress code. Attendees are encouraged to consider the weather and wear what is comfortable for them.
  • The decision to move the ceremony indoors due to expected severe inclement weather will be determined by 10 p.m. on Saturday and will be communicated via email to the campus community, colgate.edu/commencement, the Colgate Mobile App, and social media.

Livestream

We livestream the ceremony from this page for those who are unable to attend in person. 

Alternate Viewing Location

For guests who are coming to Hamilton but prefer remaining indoors rain or shine, the ceremony will be broadcast into the Class of 1965 Arena (no ticket needed). The facility will be wheelchair accessible and will open at 9:00 a.m. 

Eligibility to Participate

In order to participate in the commencement ceremony, students must meet specific eligibility requirements as outlined on the Academic Regulations page.

Those expecting to participate should visit the Commencement Checklist and Information page to complete all required action items.

Our Commencement Traditions

Students in commencement robes sitting in chapel pews watching the Baccalaureate Servcie

The baccalaureate service tradition originated in medieval European universities where it was a custom for each candidate for graduation to deliver a sermon in Latin as part of their academic requirements. The term baccalaureate is derived from the Latin words bacca and laurens, which refer to wreaths of berries and laurel worn by new graduates during that period. Following this history, some form of baccalaureates have long been part of the American college and university commencement tradition.

The first baccalaureate service at Madison University (the institution that would be renamed Colgate in 1890) was led by President George W. Eaton in 1864. In 1925, a full baccalaureate service became a regular part of the graduation exercises and has been held each year since.

Colgate’s baccalaureate service offers graduates the opportunity to hear from the graduating class’ 1819 Award recipient and the faculty recipient of the Jerome Balmuth Award for Teaching. Other graduating seniors offer readings from Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, humanist, Christian, and Buddhist traditions, and student groups present musical and dance selections. The baccalaureate gathering is the formal beginning of the commencement weekend. Graduates wear robes, though not caps, to the service.

This event, held in Colgate Memorial Chapel, can also be viewed via live stream at alternate locations on campus, and on personal devices at colgate.edu/commencement. 

Graduates carrying torches proceed down the Willow Path, whose trees are strung with lights

First enacted in 1930 under the guidance of the Alumni Association of the University, the Senior Torchlight Procession celebrates the culmination of the graduates’ four years.

To begin the procession, members of the graduating class gather in the Academic Quadrangle for music and an address by the University President. The graduating class members then process down the hill carrying torches as a symbol of the “light of knowledge” they have gained through their Colgate education as represented by the torch on the University seal.

Families and other spectators may gather at designated areas on the lower campus to watch the procession before joining the class at the President’s Reception. 

The reception offers refreshments and is free of charge to attend for graduates and their guests.

graduates in caps and gowns sitting in white folding chairs on the football field, ceremony on stadium screen in background

Colgate University, founded in 1819 as the Baptist Education Society of the State of New York, will be celebrating its 202nd commencement this year. The first commencement ceremony, which took place in 1821, was called the “Public Exercises of the Baptist Literary and Theological Seminary.” Today, the ceremony begins with a formal procession of the graduates, the faculty, Colgate’s leadership, and the honorary degree recipients, led by a bagpipe troupe. The ceremony runs for approximately 2½ hours.

Seating is open, with the exception of reserved special seating, such as for accessibility.

The ceremony will be held outdoors unless severe inclement weather arises. Even in May, our Chenango Valley temperatures can range from freezing up to the mid-80s F (mid-to-upper 20s C), and showers can appear unexpectedly, so please plan your attire accordingly. In the event that severe weather forces the ceremony indoors to Sanford Field House, tickets will be required, and space is limited. Each graduate was responsible for requesting tickets through their Senior Checklist. Tickets will be distributed to the graduates.

The ceremony will be webcast into the Class of 1965 Arena for those who prefer the indoors to the Kerr Stadium location and as spillover seating from Sanford Field House in the case of severe inclement weather. The facility is wheelchair accessible.

We also livestream the ceremony at colgate.edu/commencement for those unable to attend in person.

Future Dates 

  • May 18, 2025
  • May 17, 2026
  • May 16, 2027

Archives

Colgate maintains archives of photos, video, and speech transcripts from commencement ceremonies dating back five years on the website.

Archives

Questions?

Please include your full name, email address, and phone number as well as your specific questions.

Graduates are responsible for completing their commencement checklist items themselves; family members and other guests should coordinate with their student to re-submit any changes to the Graduate and Guest Information Form that may become necessary. 

General Commencement Info

University Events: commencement@colgate.edu; 315-825-9322

Caps & Gowns, Professional Ceremony Photography

Michele Carney: mcarney@colgate.edu, 315-228-7425