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Discover a visual history of Williams College Commencement from 1795 to the current day exploring the Archives graduation-related materials.
The first Commencement ceremonies at Williams College were held in 1795 at the Congregational Meeting house. And, it is true that graduation is no longer the all day affair of 1795, during which each graduating senior spoke four times. And we no longer offer a “watermelon cart and grog-stand,” fixtures of Williams’ 19th-century graduation festivities. Since 1795 the ceremony has been presided over by the High Sheriff of Berkshire County, representing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which granted a charter to the College in 1793.
Today's ceremonies reaffirm and acknowledge these early Commencement practices: the procession takes a respectful walk past West College, it is still led by the High Sheriff, and while no longer in a meeting house, a Chaplain of the College opens and closes the proceedings.