History and Tradition
The processional begins with the all-college gonfalonier, who leads in the faculty, followed by the Schools of Arts and Sciences, Education and Professional Studies gonfaloniers, who lead in the students.
The processional concludes when the mace bearer brings in the platform party, which consists of members of the College's administration and faculty leadership, the College Council, visiting dignitaries and honorees.
By lofty elm trees shaded round,
The four bright banners carried in the academic procession are called gonfalons. The red, white, black and grey gonfalon represents the College, in blue, grey and burgundy it represents the School of Arts and Sciences, in blue, purple and black it represents the School of Education, and in peach and green it represents the School of Professional Studies.
The gonfalons were designed by Libby Kowalski, professor of art and art history, and Kathy Maher, a 1984 SUNY Cortland graduate. The standards were made by Bard Prentiss, associate professor emeritus of art and art history, and J. Eric Kroot. Materials were provided by the Gilbert and Mary Cahill Foundation and the late Rozanne M. Brooks, distinguished teaching professor emerita of sociology/anthropology.
International Student Flag
Graduating international students present their national flag to the president during the Commencement ceremony. In 2004, flags representing China, Japan and Nepal were received. In 2006, the flag representing Colombia was received. In 2007, the flags representing Mali, Peru, and South Korea wree recieved. The flags are prominently displayed in the lobby of Corey Union.
The mace is a ceremonial staff used as a symbol of authority. The mace bearer precedes the platform party and places the mace on a special stand where it remains while the official proceedings of Commencement are under way. SUNY Cortland's mace, the "Torch of learning," is made of silver and rosewood and was created by local silversmith John Marshall.
Commencement lends itself to the pageantry of an academic procession rooted in medieval times. The gowns and hoods worn by faculty members, candidates for graduation and platform dignitaries distinguish the institution from which the wearer was or will be graduated, the level of the degree earned and the field of learning.
In 1985, American colleges established a standard code of academic dress, specifying three types of gowns. The gown for the bachelor's degree has pointed sleeves, the gown for the master's degree has an oblong sleeve with the front part cut in an arc, and the gown for the doctoral degree has bell-shaped sleeves. The doctoral gown is also trimmed in velvet.
The hood's inner lining, which folds out at the back and center, indicates the colors of the institution granting the degree, while the border, which comes around to the front of the neck, represents the field of learning. The black mortarboard cap is standard. Its only distinguishing feature is a gold tassel worn by holders of the doctoral degree.
The black mortarboard cap is standard. Its only distinguishing feature is a gold tassel worn by holders of the doctoral degree.
When applying for a degree, all students will be asked to designate a "special person" who has been instrumental in helping them to achieve academic success.
The name of the special person will be read immediately following the student’s name, which is announced while the student walks across the stage at the Commencement ceremony and is congratulated by the president.