The first commencement ceremony was held June 28, 1882 to close out the first academic year of Storrs Agricultural School. With only one year of classes, there were no diplomas to award. The ceremony consisted of a prayer by the Rev. Nathaniel Beach, followed by an address delivered by Rev. L. T. (Leander Trowbridge) Chamberlain, pastor of Broadway Congregational Church in Norwich, Conn. Remarks were also given by Theodore S. Gold of Cornwall on behalf of the school trustees. A laboratory demonstration was then conducted by students "to illustrate the methods of instruction pursued in the school," and visitors were invited to inspect the school's buildings and facilities.
The second commencement ceremony was held June 27, 1883, with the first six boys awarded certificates for completing the two-year curriculum. During the ceremony, each of the six read a paper on an agricultural research topic:
- Frederick B. Brown of Gilead (Hebron) - "Animal Parasites"
- Charles S. Foster of Bristol - "Seed Testing"
- Henry R. Hoisington of Coventry - "Surveying"
- Burke Hough of Weatogue (Simsbury) - "The Colorado Potato-Beetle"
- Arthur S. Hubbard of Glastonbury - "Fruits of the Farm"
- Andrew K. Thompson of Cornwall - "Fertilizers"
The ceremony was held in the Storrs Congregational Church and the speaker was J. M. Hubbard of Middletown, a member of the Board of Trustees from 1881 to 1896. The program listed Hubbard as presenting an "address on behalf of the trustees".
The third commencement had two speakers: Gov. Thomas M. Waller, and the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. This ceremony, June 19, 1884, was held outdoors in an oak grove located on the east side of Gurleyville Road.
In its early years, the school/college selected either trustees, clergymen or agriculturalists as the commencement speaker. In the years of the administration of Charles Lewis Beach (1908 to 1928) the focus shifted to academicians and college presidents. During the 27 years of the administration of Albert Jorgensen, a speaker from outside the University was rare -- and the usual speaker was Jorgensen. There was a shift to public policy makers and college presidents during the administration of Homer D. Babbidge, a trend that continued in the 1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s, television journalists, entertainers, and authors were added to the long list of speakers.
In 2003, the University began holding a commencement ceremony in December for undergraduates who complete their degree requirements in August and December. The December ceremony was discontinued after 2008.
The University began holding separate ceremonies for individual schools and colleges in May, 2007. The School of Fine Arts and the Neag School of Education were the first to hold these separate undergraduate ceremonies.
Starting in May 2008, separate ceremonies are held for each of the schools and colleges of the University.
Information on the History of Commencement pages was researched and compiled by Mark J. Roy