Commencement history

Today’s Commencement marks a new milestone in IWU history. Due to the pandemic, Titans are gathering online across the globe to celebrate. This is definitely a first! This post traces the other ways in which IWU Commencement has changed over the years.

Commencement_19501960

ca 1950-60 in front of Duration Hall in the center of the Quad (click to enlarge)

Although Commencement is sometimes held inside due to inclement weather, IWU has a tradition of holding the ceremony outdoors going back to the early 1900s. The second building IWU built served as backdrop and it was positioned on the northern end of what we now know as the Quad. It was first known as Main and Old Main (1870), the Hedding Hall (1936) and finally Duration Hall (1943).

Commencement1970

Commencement 1970

Sometime between 1960-1970 the location changed to McPherson Beach, on the north side of the School of Theatre Arts.

In 1990, the location for Commencement changed from McPherson Beach to its present location.

ca. 2002 In our current Quad location but note the arches of Sheean Library in the foreground

 

The backdrop for Commencement from 1990-2011 was Sheean Library until it was razed in 2011 and replaced with State farm Hall, which was built on Sheean’s footprint. This location was named Kemp Plaza in 2013, the same year that State Farm Hall opened.

Commencement 2019

State Farm Hall, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a selection of Commencement photos from days gone by. We have also made it possible for programs and some recordings from 70 Commencements of IWU’s 170 year history to be available online.

Below are some fun facts about IWU customs and graduation requirements. In looking at how they have changed over the years, just imagine what will happen in future Titan times!

Did you know that

  • Commencement festivities used to last for a week? They involved performances, Baccalaureate sermons, Class Day celebrations (for Juniors AND Seniors), alumni reunions, and dinner at the President’s house.
  • students used to be required to deliver a speech, without notes, as part of the ceremonies? The text had to be 1000 words long!
  • classes sometimes issued their own elaborate invitations, created Class mottos and chose Class colors?
  • alumni from the 1930s-1966 had to pass a swimming test?

Named places: Munsell Hall

Munsell Hall is named for two brothers: Charles W. C. Munsell and Oliver Spencer Munsell. Both are credited with seeing IWU through its first financial crisis in 1857, growing student enrollment, and securing funds for the second campus building (1870). Charles served as IWU’s financial agent, in charge of raising funds for the struggling school, and Oliver served as second president of the University. President Munsell’s tenure also saw positive Board of Trustee action on admitting African American students (1867) and female students (1870). He resigned in 1873 due to questions raised about inappropriate contact with student. No criminal charges were brought but the incident was investigated by both the Methodist Conference and the Board of Trustees. Minutes of the latter are available in the University Archives.

Charles W. C. Munsell

Oliver Spencer Munsell

Named places: Buck Memorial Library

Buck Memorial Library is named for Rev. Dr. Hiram and Martha A. Buck. The Bucks became benefactors of the University starting in the 1890s with a donation of farmland. Hiram served as a trustee and Martha became IWU’s first female trustee on his death. On Mrs. Buck’s death a gift to the University included a request that funds be designated for a library and World Culture Center

HiramBuck

Rev. Dr. Hiram Buck

MarthaBuck

Martha Buck

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buck was IWU’s first free-standing library and served our community in that capacity from 1923-1968. It continues to fill Martha Buck’s wishes as home to IWU’s World Languages, Literatures and Culture department.

More information on the Bucks is available in IWU’s Historical Sketch and Alumni Record (1895) pp. 50-53 available online at https://bit.ly/2QX8865

Named places: Harriet House

Harriet Rust

Harriett House completes the Dodds/Dolan/Magill housing quadrangle. It opened in the Fall of 1997 and was the first new residence hall built on the IWU campus since 1970. At first only known as “New House,” the hall was renamed on May 10, 1999 to honor Harriett Fuller Rust, an Illinois Wesleyan trustee and president of the Illinois Wesleyan President’s Club from 1983 until her death in July 1997.

Mrs. Rust was actively involved in the campus and local community. At the time of the hall’s naming, then-president of the Board of Trustees Craig Hart said, “Her enthusiasm and energy has helped IWU in so many ways, but especially her strong commitment to our students makes this tribute especially appropriate.”

Named places: Hansen Student Center

Hansen ribbon cutting

The Hansen family is shown in the center at the ribbon cutting at the dedication on January 12, 2002

Hansen Student Center is named in honor of lead donor Tom Hansen, Class of 1982. His gift made it possible to remodel the Memorial Gymnasium, the first athletic facility on IWU’s campus, which was built in 1922. The building was dedicated to IWU students who died in World War One and their names can still be seen at the entry to the main court, across from the Information Desk. The basement, now Tommy’s, once contained IWU’s first swimming pool. A dedication ceremony for Hansen took place on January 12, 2002.

The campus announced Hansen’s gift in an October 28, 1999 press release and the IWU Magazine ran a post-renovation feature story titled A Place to Call Their Own in the Summer 2002 issue.

Photo selections from the Memorial Gym’s early days are available online; more of these and of Hansen are held in the University’s archives online.

Examining a scale model of the Memorial Gym/Hansen renovation

Student Senate President Harold Gauthier, Class of 2000 sharing renovation plans with other students. October 25, 1999

Named places: Wilson Atrium

President and Mrs. Wilson

President and Mrs. Wilson, November 16, 2010

The Wilson Atrium in the Center for Natural Science Learning and Research (CNS) is named in honor of IWU’s 18th President Richard F. Wilson (2004-2015 and interim in summer 2019) and his wife, Patricia L. Wilson. Wilson gave special attention to developing a strategic plan for Illinois Wesleyan, strengthening the University’s financial position, and conducting the largest fund-raising campaign in the school’s history. Along with financing The Wilson Atrium seal, plaques and lettering, members of the Board of Trustees furnished the atrium with new chairs and couches to make the space more comfortable and functional in honor of Richard and Patricia Wilson.

Wilson Atrium seal unveiling

Unveiling the seal at the Wilson Atrium dedication, May 7, 2018.

Named places: Shirk Center

Shirk_Horenberger_1999

Russell Shirk and Jack Horenberger at the dedication of Horenberger Field, 1999.

Russell O. Shirk was a member of the Class of 1943. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1989 and was the Distinguished Alumnus in 1971. The Shirk Center opened in 1994 and is named in honor of him and his wife and Betty J. Shirk. Shirk is pictured here (on left) with his friend Jack Horenberger, who the Shirk Foundation honored through funding the improvement and expansion of IWU’s baseball field.

“The Shirks wanted a center for use by the students and faculty and also something they could be proud of. They were very pleased that the community was able to enjoy the facility as well, and that it has been such an asset to the community,” Ben Rhodes, then- director of development said in 1999.

ShirkCenterOpening_1994

Shirk Family at ribbon cutting ceremony in 1994. Also pictured are Athletic Director Dennie Bridges (L) and BOT Chair Hugh Henning (R).

Named places: Stevenson Hall

Dr. Edgar M. Stevenson

Dr. Edgar M. Stevenson

Stevenson is the home of the School of Nursing and is currently IWU’s oldest building; when it was built in 1910 it received partial funding by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. It was originally called the Science Building and was renamed for local doctor Edgar M. Stevenson after being renovated in 1965.

 

Dr. Carolyn Jarvis

Dr. Carolyn Jarvis

The Jarvis Center for Nursing Excellence was completed, along with several other updates to the building, in 2016. It was named in honor of Professor of Nursing Carolyn Jarvis, whose lead gift provided substantial funding for these renovations.”

Named places: Eckley Quadrangle

Robert and Nell Eckley

Robert S. and Nell Eckley

At the heart of IWU’s 82-acre campus is the park-like Eckley Quadrangle, named for IWU’s 15th president Robert S. Eckley (1968-1986) and his wife Nell. They were instrumental in developing and implementing a landscaping plan for the Quad after Dutch elm disease destroyed almost all of the trees in the 1970s.

1970 campus aerial view

1970 campus aerial view prior to Quad redesign

 

1974 Aerial view of campus

1974 Aerial view of campus following redesign

Named places: Minor Myers, jr. Welcome Center

Minor Myers, jr.

Minor Myers, jr.. 1989

The Minor Myers, jr. Welcome Center, honoring Illinois Wesleyan’s 17th president (1989-2003), houses the Admissions Office and the Hart Career Center. Myers tenure saw the creation of the Shirk Center, the Center for Natural Sciences and The Ames Library.

Then-BOT President Craig Hart, 2003

Craig Hart, 2003

 

 

 

 

Craig C. Hart, former president of IWU’s Board of Trustees, is the Career Center’s namesake. The Welcome Center received Silver certification as a leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building – the first building in Bloomington to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.