Commencement celebration

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Students at commencement


A brief history of commencement at Georgia Tech

Although there is not much information available, it is likely that the earliest graduation ceremonies began with the first graduating class of 1890 when Tech graduated two men: George G. Crawford and Henry L. Smith in June. [1]Beginning in June 1895, the Georgia Tech Bulletin listed programs for the graduation day ceremonies. Since 1970, graduation ceremonies started taking place three times a year,during May,August,and December,except from 1972 to 1999, when it was held at the conclusion of every quarter, before Tech converted to the semester system in the fall of 1999.[2]

Location of the ceremony event

Commencement at the Fox Theater

Due to the expansion of the campus and of the student body, the commencement ceremonies took place at various locations. Until about 1902, it took place on the Georgia Tech campus. From 1902 until 1916, the ceremonies were held at the Grand Opera House in Atlanta. But in 1917, the commencement ceremonies returned to the Georgia Tech campus. Between 1935 and 1938, the location was changed again, and this time to The Fox Theatre. In 1939, the location once again returned to the Georgia Tech campus. Between 1943 and early 1946, it switched back to the Fox Theatre. In 1970, the ceremonies returned to Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum and have been there ever since. Due to the increasing number of graduates, the spring graduations for master and undergraduate degrees are occasionally held at a larger location, such as the Georgia Dome.[3]

Graduation celebration

In the early days of Georgia Tech, the graduation exercise consisted of a single ceremony that included: music, prayer, a baccalaureate address, and the conferring of degrees. The graduation program also lists the home county of the graduates and the title of their thesis for all the graduates on the printed brochure.[4] Due to the rapid growth in the number of Georgia Tech graduates each year, recent graduation exercises have changed to a presentation and address from prestigious faculty members and award of degrees. In the spring of 2010, Georgia Tech held its 236th commencement ceremony with approximately 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students.[5]

1912 graduation celebration

Back in the time when there were only 59 bachelor's degrees given in a year, the commencement day was more eventful than what it is today, according to the 1911-1912 Georgia Institute of Technology bulletins. [6]Instead of the previous years of the very simple presentation of degrees, there was a three-day period of graduation festivities going on all over the campus. On Tuesday, June 13, 1912 at 10:30 am, the members of the Senior Class with parents, professors, students and admiring friends filled the college chapel and the first last day exercises at school in the history of Georgia Tech was held. From there, the audience was then invited to go out on the campus and witness the presentation of the memorial fountain by the class of 1911, which still stands today. The afternoon was devoted to the annual exhibit of shops and mills as well as the Varsity-Alumni baseball game, and in the evening the chapel held the freshman oratorical contest along with the glee club concert. After the concert, the crowd streamed out on the campus where the Junior Promenade was in full swing. Various colored electric lights were strung everywhere, music by the Reedmen’s Band of Atlanta filled the air, and the Tech Orchestra played sweet music in the gymnasium for the dancers, all formed a combination that suited the mind of the genuine Techs better than words could express. On the next day graduation exercises were held, with the closing address and nobleness oblige honoring the Tech spirit.

2000 Commencement

The 206th commencement ceremony of Georgia Tech was remarkable, not only because it was it the first commencement ceremony in the new century, but also because a record of number of students graduated, due to the school's conversion to semester system, which eliminated the March commencement. In order to uphold the Georgia Tech tradition of presenting diplomas for 1751 graduates, the graduation ceremony was separated into two sessions on May 6th, 2000, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, for undergraduate and graduate respectively. President G. Wayne Clough was the master of the commencement ceremony on that day, and the commencement address was given by Mr. Alfred Berkeley, president of the NASDAQ Stock Market.[7]

Georgia Tech Alma Mater

Alma Mater is a Latin word meaning, "nourishing mother", which is generally interpreted as the school where one attended during his or her formative years and earned his or her bachelor degree.[citation needed] During the commencement ceremony, the Georgia Tech Alma Mater song is performed. The lyrics are as follows [8]: Oh, sons of Tech, arise, behold! The banner as it reigns supreme, For from on high the White and Gold Waves in its triumphant gleam. The spirit of the cheering throng Resounds with joy revealing A brotherhood in praise and song, In memory of the days gone by. Oh, Scion of the Southland! In our hearts you shall forever fly. We cherish thoughts so dear for thee, Oh, Alma Mater, in our prayer. We plead for you in victory, And in the victory we share! But when the battle seems in vain Our spirits never falter, We're ever one in joy or pain, And our union is a lasting bond. Oh! May we be united. Till the victory of life is won.

Getting out

The celebration of graduation is also regarded as a release from school. For Georgia Tech students, graduation is not only the time they receive the degree, but also the time they finally "Get out".So graduates typically say "I got out" rather than that they graduated from Georgia Tech.The main reason behind this is that the reputation of Georgia Tech is earned considerably by being stressful. In 2001, The Princeton Review placed Tech among the 10 toughest colleges and universities in the United States and later reported that Tech's heavy workload led to "overly stressed" students with "minimal time for social functions".In 2002, the Review ranked Tech No. 2 on its list of colleges and universities with the "least happy students",prompting Institute officials to publish a report the following year responding to the negative publicity. [9] Among all the students who "to hell with Georgia", it is believed that a sacrifice of sleep, studying, or a social life defines their lifestyle at tech.For the reasons stated above, students commonly refer to graduation from Tech as "getting out"。

The Yellow Jackets

First Tech Graduates

The commencement address is often given by a Georgia Tech alumni who excels in his field to inspire the graduates to enjoy the challenges and successes in their future. After "getting out", all these smart and ambitious young engineers becomes Georgia Tech alumni, generally known as the Yellow Jacket, according to the Georgia Tech Alumni Association[10] The first two "Yellow Jackets" mentioned in the above section made a good start for Tech graduate.Smith lead a manufacturing enterprise in Dalton, Georgia and Crawford head Birmingham, Alabama's large Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railway Company. The first female "Yellow Jacket" graduated from Georgia Tech is Amy T. Wise from the Evening School in 1919, who was the only female student in a class of 90.[11] As one of Georgia Tech's most familiar and oldest symbols,the earliest known reference to the Yellow Jacket appeared in 1905, a year after John Heisman became Tech's football coach. In 1906, Atlanta newspapers began showing the first documented drawing of the Yellow Jacket. The Yellow Jacket was then appeared on the cover of the Georgia Tech alumni magazines right along with the official school seal, During the 1920s and early 1930s. In 1979, it was not surprised to see that the appearance of the Buzz mascot share the same bold-as-brass feature as the Yellow Jacket.[12]

Learn More

View this video about Georgia Tech Traditions to see an example of Commencement Celebration.


  1. List of Georgia Tech Alumni.In wikipedia, retrieved on Oct 20th, 2010 from
  2. Semester and Quarter Plan Report,1936, retrieved from Semester and Quarter Plan Report (MF028), Archives, Library and Information Center, Georgia Institute of Technology.
  3. Administrative History of Commencement exercise. From Commencement and Baccalaureate Collection (UA370), Archives, Library and Information Center, Georgia Institute of Technology.
  4. The Georgia Tech (commencement issue), June 1899,from Commencement and Baccalaureate Collection (UA370), Archives, Library and Information Center, Georgia Institute of Technology.
  5. Remarks at Spring 2010 commencement Exercise.Retrieved from
  6. Bulletin Vol. VIII, No. V (commencement number), October 1911. From Commencement and Baccalaureate Collection (UA370), Archives, Library and Information Center, Georgia Institute of Technology.
  7. 206th commencement.retrieved from
  8. Alma Mater.In Retrieved Oct 20th, 2010 from
  9. Haynes, Derek (2002-08-30). "Princeton Review ranks Tech unhappy" (PDF). The Technique. Retrieved Oct 10,2010
  10. Retrieved Oct 12, 2010 from
  11. Underground Degrees. Retrieved from
  12. A walk through Tech's history. Retrieved from
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