Ask Abe: Commencement Locations

An Alum

In how many places has commencement taken place over the years?

Abe

Next weekend, thousands of UW students will become proud alumni at the spring 2018 commencement ceremony. Since the first commencement on July 26, 1854, the ceremony has moved around campus to several locations — six that we can list. That first ceremony in 1854, with a whopping two graduates — Levi Booth 1854, MS1858 and Charles Wakeley 1854, MA1857 — was held in an old Baptist church. The archival records are a little spotty during the early years, but it appears that the next location was the Armory and Gymnasium (today’s Red Gym). The next move was in the early 1900s, when the ceremony was moved to the Stock Pavilion on the ag campus. In 1925, the first commencement was held in Camp Randall Stadium, where it would return decades later. The first midyear ceremony happened in 1965, and it was held in the Wisconsin Field House. It wasn’t until 1985 that the UW split its ceremonies to hold one for undergrads (held back at Camp Randall Stadium) and one for graduate and professional degrees (still in the Field House). Later, both commencements were moved indoors to the Kohl Center, where the December ceremony is still held today. In 2014, the spring ceremony was moved back to Camp Randall.