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Commencement and Baccalaureate records

Identifier: 1VC

Scope and Contents

Collection consists of records from Commencement and Baccalaureate events, dating from 1879-2017. Collection is arranged in three series. Series I. Baccalaureate programs (1884-2006) includes sermons and programs from Baccalaureate services. Series II. Commencement records (1879-2017) includes documentation of Commencement and Commencement Week activities, such as programs, invitations, clippings, press releases, press kits, photograph slides, and speeches. Series III. Commencement Recordings (1981-1982, 1984-1991, 1994, 1997) includes cassette tapes of commencement addresses.


  • 1879-2017


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. To make an appointment to view materials, please contact the Archives staff by email at or by phone at (781) 283-3745.

Conditions Governing Use

The Wellesley College Archives welcomes researchers to use materials in the public domain, to make fair use of copyrighted materials as defined by copyright law, and to request permission to use works whose copyright is held by Wellesley College. All materials from the Archives, regardless of copyright status, should be attributed to the Wellesley College Archives, Library and Technology Services when cited, quoted, or reproduced.

Biographical / Historical

From 1889 to 1912, Shakespearean plays were given outdoors at Commencement. (1) In the earliest years of the college, there was a chapel in College Hall, but it was not until the spring of 1896 that the gift of $100,000 was given by Elizabeth G. Houghton and Clement S. Houghton to fund the construction of the William S. Houghton Memorial Chapel (named for a Trustee of the college, and Clement and Elizabeth’s father). Commencement exercises were held in the Houghton Memorial Chapel after it opened in June 1899. (2) One exception was the Class of 1926’s Commencement, which was held in Alumnae Hall, but this change was met with disapproval from alumnae. (5) The year before his death in October 1881, college founder Henry Fowle Durant suggested eliminating Commencement, to be replaced by only the Baccalaureate sermon and vespers, and direct delivery of diplomas, in line with his religious views. However, when he passed away the idea was dispensed with. (3) Alumnae were officially offered an ongoing open invitation to attend Commencement ceremonies as of June 1884. The invitation was issued by College President Alice Freeman. (4)

[Information from: Glasscock, Jean, and Katharine Canby Balderston. Wellesley College, 1875-1975: a Century of Women. Wellesley College, 1975. (1) Page 175, (2) page 303, (3) page 401, (4) page 439. See also: (5) “Alumnae State Disapproval of Commencement Innovation.” Wellesley News. September 30, 1926.]


5.8 Linear Feet (15 boxes )

Language of Materials



Collection is arranged into three series: Series I. Baccalaureate programs (1884-2006), Series II. Commencement records (1879-2017), and Series III. Commencement recordings (1981-1982, 1984-1991, 1994, 1997). Each series is arranged in chronological order.

Existence and Location of Copies

Commencement programs have been digitized. Please contact the Archives staff at 781-283-3745 or to access digital copies.


Wellesley College. Commencement and Baccalaureate Records, 1879-2017: a guide.
Natalia Gutierrez-Jones, Project Archivist
2019 June 12
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Wellesley College Archives Repository