History & Traditions

Champlain College Commencement Traditions

Champlain College - Then & Now

Champlain College began in downtown Burlington in 1878 as Burlington Collegiate Institute, founded by G.W. Thompson. The Institute was renamed Burlington Business College and operated under E. George Evans' direction from 1884 to 1920 when it was purchased by A. Gordon Tittemore. He ran the school until 1956 when C. Bader Brouilette, in partnership with Albert Jensen, acquired the College. Brouilette became the president and two years later established the institution as Champlain College, offering associate degree programs.

Champlain College purchased Freeman Hall in 1958 and moved to the Hill Section of Burlington. In 1965, the College opened its first dormitory in a restored Victorian building on historic South Willard Street. Champlain built Joyce Learning Center in 1970 to support its growing student body. Brouilette remained president until his retirement in 1977 when he was succeeded by Dr. Robert Skiff. During Skiff's presidency, the College acquired several buildings that were converted to dormitories and constructed the Hauke Family Campus Center in 1989. In 1991, the College introduced its first bachelor degree program. Today, Champlain offers bachelor degree programs in 30 fields of study including information technology, creative media, business, and education.

Dr. Roger Perry became the sixth president of Champlain in 1992, and under his leadership Champlain established one of the country's first online academic programs. During the 90's, Champlain also offered academic programs at satellite campuses in Israel, United Arab Emirates and India. The first master degree program was launched in 2002. During Dr. Perry's tenure, the campus expanded to include the Robert E. and Holly D. Miller Information Commons (1998), the S.D. Ireland Family Center for Global Business and Technology (2004) and the IDX Student Life Center (2005).

In 2005, under the new leadership of Dr. David Finney, Champlain's seventh president, the College began expanding its graduate programs. Champlain now offers nine master's programs that enroll more than 500 students.  By 2009, the College had established study-abroad campuses in Montreal, Canada and Dublin, Ireland.

The College marked a planning milestone in 2011 when President Finney introduced Champlain 2020. The strategic plan envisions goals to enhance key areas that include academic excellence, student life, financial stability, faculty and staff support and campus diversity.

Today, Champlain College-educating 2,000 traditional undergraduates, 900 full-time and part-time adult students, and 500 graduate students from 47 states and 30 countries, and continues its long tradition of being a leader in preparing highly educated, deeply skilled and personally confident professionals.

Academic Regalia

Much of the regalia in today's ceremony originated in medieval European universities such as Oxford. Since most of the professors in that age were church clerics, they wore heavy, rather austere, long robes with hoods. This manner of dress not only reflected their vows of poverty, but also kept them warm in the drafty university halls of the period. As time passed, these hooded robes evolved into elaborate vestments that more closely resembled the colorful, symbolic fashions of the royal courts. These vestments were often made of colored silks with heavy embroidery. Different styles of hoods (which were now entirely symbolic and no longer designed to cover the head), mortars (a stylized cap popular at the time) and cassock-like gowns displayed the loyalties, disciplines and levels of achievement of the wearer.

As early as the 1700s, academic costumes found their way to America at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University (then King's College), and perhaps at a few other colleges founded in colonial times. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Gardner Cotrell Leonard, of Albany, New York, undertook the stabilization of the costume's symbolism after his family's firm designed special regalia for Williams College in western Massachusetts. The American Council on Education has updated the academic costume code three times since then, most recently in 1986. For all colleges and universities that adhere to the Intercollegiate Code, the general descriptions are the same, although certain institutions have made slight modifications when permissible.

The color of the gown is commonly black with no trim for the bachelor's or the master's degree. The doctor's gown is faced down the front with velvet, with three bars of the same across the sleeves, and may be worn open or closed. Rarely the trim of the doctor's gown can conform to the color code for the edgings of hoods and the tassels of caps. Ordinarily, the velvet is either black or dark blue, since the most common degree title is doctor of philosophy. The color code is the same for all degrees, although the binding or edging of the hood varies in width: two inches, three inches and five inches for the bachelor's, master's and doctor's degrees, respectively. Similarly, the hoods vary in length. For example, golden-yellow velvet-five inches in width, bound to a black 36-inch hood with panels on each side and lined with satin colors-displays a Ph.D degree in a field of science, with the satin lining indicating the colors of the particular college or university that awarded the degree.

The bachelor's degree has pointed sleeves and the gown hangs closed. The hood is optional, although if worn it should conform strictly to the color and design code. The master's degree is indicated by an oblong sleeve, open at the wrist, with the base hanging and square-cut. The gown may be worn open or closed, according to design; the hood is 30 inches, without side panels, and is bound with three-inch velvet.

Tassels for caps may be black or may conform to the color code, except that gold is most often worn for the doctor's degree. Members of the governing body of a college or university-and they only, whatever degrees they hold-are entitled to wear doctor's gowns, but their hoods may be only those of degrees actually held by the wearers or especially designed by the institution. The chief officer and the chief marshal may wear specifically designed costumes as approved by the institution.

Academic Regalia Colors

  • Accountancy, Business, Commerce - Drab
  • Arts, Letters, Humanities - White
  • Economics - Copper
  • Education - Light Blue
  • Fine Arts, including Architecture - Brown
  • Law - Purple
  • Library Science - Lemon
  • Medicine - Green
  • Music - Pink
  • Nursing - Apricot
  • Philosophy - Dark Blue
  • Physical Education - Sage Green
  • Public Administration - Peacock Blue
  • Science - Golden Yellow
  • Social Work - Citron
  • Theology - Scarlet

A selected list of Cords & Sashes colors follows:

  • Gold Sashes represent Academic Honors, for students with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher.
  • Light Blue Cord indicates the Education Honors Society, for students with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher and who have passed Praxis I and II, which measure academic skills and subject-specific knowledge and teaching skills.
  • Maroon and Dark Green Cord symbolizes the Lambda Nu Honor Society of Radiologic and Imaging Sciences, for students with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher in their major courses.
  • Gold Cord indicates the Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society for students with a 3.25 or higher grade point average in required social work courses and an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher.

The Mace

The College Mace was commissioned by the late Edward P. Lyman, Sr., former vice president for Development. It is carried by the College Marshal, who leads the procession at Commencement and other formal academic occasions.

The Presidential Mace is a gift from William G. Post, Jr., former chairperson of the Board of Trustees, who designed and crafted it. It is carried by the President of the Faculty Senate, who leads the President of the College to the platform.


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