Miscellaneous tidbits from Commencements past:

Evabelle Simmons, the daughter of Wake Forest College bursar William Gaston Simmons, completed the requirements for a degree in 1888. However, the Trustees refused to award her a diploma. Two years later, they reversed the decision, and on June 12, 1890, Simmons became Wake Forest’s first woman graduate.

James Fred Young (’56), who was president of Elon College from 1973-1998, was the last person to receive an undergraduate degree on the Old Campus. Hugh Mal Wilson (’51 BBA, JD ’56), who is a partner in Wilson Palmer & Lackey of Lenoir, was the last to receive a diploma of any kind on the Old Campus when he picked up his law degree.

June 4, 1962 was a busy day for Clyde Glosson and Janice Howell. In the early morning, Clyde received his ROTC commission. A little later, they both received bachelor of arts degrees at commencement exercises. At 4 p.m., they were married.

Student marshals traditionally have been available to help guests at graduation exercises. It was not until 1965, however, that their authority was questioned. At that year’s exercises, a marshal was “caught by the collar” by a guest who demanded to be seated even though he did not have the required ticket. Marshals have been required to wear black and gold sashes ever since.

The first commencement held off campus was on May 20, 1991, when rain forced the customary outdoor graduation exercises into the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Rain also forced commencement to move to Joel Coliseum in 2010.

The last class to …

  • graduate under the elms before the last of the diseased elm trees were removed and replaced with ash trees was the Class of 1987.
  • receive sheepskin diplomas was the Class of 1982. The cost of an optional sheepskin diploma in 1982 was $40.

Weather notes …

Commencement 2013
  • In 1989, a rain and wind-storm knocked down the tent the night before Commencement; the program proceeded on schedule, without a tent
  • Rain has forced Commencement inside four times (2010 – Joel Coliseum, 1991 – Joel Coliseum, 1983 – Wait Chapel, 1973 – Wait Chapel) since it started to be held on the Quad in 1966. (From 1957 to 1965, Commencement was held in Wait Chapel.)
  • Perhaps one of the most memorable rain moments was 2013, in which a cloudburst descended upon the Quad just as the recessional was starting.
  • 8,500 bottles of water were distributed in 1993, when temperatures soared to the high 90s during the ceremony
  • In 1999, the temperature was 52 during the ceremony (plus a cool, rainy mist)



Number of graduates in the first graduating class, 1839


Number of graduates in 1843


The year the first honorary degree was awarded, to Wake Forest founder and first president Samuel Wait


Number of honorary degrees awarded in 1934, the most ever


Approximate length of Commencement


Hours long of the Commencement speech delivered in 1858 by Solomon Satchwell


Age of Eustace Norfleet when he received at B.A. degree in 1949. He is believed to be the oldest graduate.


Year the first black student, Edward Reynolds, graduated