Inside Rensselaer
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The Class of 1910 celebrated its Commencement ceremony at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in downtown Troy.

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Notable Moments in Commencement History
As Rensselaer has evolved, so have its Commencement ceremonies. There have been many notable moments in Rensselaer Commencement history; here are a few interesting facts:

Rensselaer’s first Commencement was April 26, 1826, in the old Bank Place in Troy. Asa Fitch, a member of the class of 1827, recorded the event in his diary. The graduates delivered demonstration lectures on scientific subjects, probably the first of their kind in American education, in language described by Fitch as “plain, familiar…no one attempting to be elegant
or flowery in his discourse.”

Commencement was not held on campus until 1913 when the ’87 Gym provided a large enough space to accommodate the ceremony. The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall hosted 37 consecutive commencements from 1876-1912. According to Rensselaer historian Samuel Rezneck, “For want of a suitable auditorium until 1913, the exercises took place in various halls in the city, after 1876 in the Music Hall... In 1913 Rensselaer acquired a gymnasium, which provided facilities for its Commencement exercises.”

Alumni Hockey Weekend To Celebrate ’85 NCAA Championship Team *

The Class of 1913 was the first to experience Commencement on campus, in the ’87 Gymnasium.

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There were no Commencements in 1852 and 1919.
The degree program changed from one year to three years in 1850 and therefore there was no class of 1852. The Class of 1919 graduated in December 1918 due to an acceleration of the program during WWI.
There was no Commencement speaker in 1968. Nelson Rockefeller cancelled due to the assassination of Robert Kennedy on June 5, two days before Commencement.

The first honorary degree (Doctor of Engineering) was awarded at Commencement in 1916 to Robert W. Hunt, a longtime trustee (Hunt Dormitory is named for him).

The Rensselaer Mace, created in 1999 for the first time in Rensselaer’s history, is carried at the head of all academic processions and is prominently displayed during academic ceremonies. The modern mace grew out of an ancient tradition to use it to preserve order. It can be carried before a high functionary as a symbol of authority.

The Rensselaer Flag combines historic and contemporary elements to represent the Institute’s origins and the present. The design is based on the coat of arms of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, the great-great grandfather of Rensselaer’s founder, Stephen Van Rensselaer.

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Send comments to:
Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
1000 Troy Building, 110 Eighth Street, Troy, N.Y. 12180 or to leibat@rpi.edu.
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 10, May 28, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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