Wellesley Traditions

student with hoop at hoop rolling

The many Wellesley-specific traditions make commencement a momentous event for students and their guests.

Traditions have helped define the "Wellesley experience" since the last century.

In recent decades, however, traditions have assumed an even greater significance. Wellesley is a vastly different place than it was when many of these traditions were first celebrated, encompassing a diversity of cultures, backgrounds, and viewpoints unknown to the generations of women here before us. In transcending these differences, our traditions are one of the major bonds uniting us and shaping our common identity, spirit, and pride as Wellesley women.

+
Hoop Rolling

Hoop Rolling will take place on Saturday, April 18, 2020 (Inclement Weather date of April 25th) at Tupelo Lane.  Back in the day, it was proclaimed that whoever won the Hoop Roll would be the first to get married. In the status-seeking 1980s, she was the first to be CEO. Now we just say that the winner will be the first to achieve happiness and success, whatever that means to her.  The winner is carried away by her Wellesley Sisters......and has the honor of being thrown into Lake Waban.  View more information about Hoop Rolling here.

+
Baccalaureate

On Saturday, May 30, 2020, graduating seniors and their guests gather at Houghton Chapel for Baccalaureate celebration at 2PM, a special time of reflection and celebration before Commencement exercises the next day.

The Baccalaureate celebration is a beloved Wellesley tradition that stretches back over many generations of Wellesley women at the time of commencement. However, the celebration is unique to each graduating class. Baccalaureate is the service prepared by the Seniors to celebrate their journey through Wellesley College. It is a time to be together in a more personal way; an original celebration planned by seniors for seniors and includes readings and reflections, dancing, drumming, singing and many memories.  

Seniors may invite family members to attend so that they too get the more personal feel of the senior's life on campus over the prior four years. Each senior has a ticket for one guest to attend the service inside the Houghton Memorial Chapel. The service is streamed to the televisions in the large white tent on the chapel lawn, where other family members and friends are invited to join.

Following the celebration, there is a reception for seniors and their guests, and later in the evening, there will be a special Baccalaureate concert at 8PM. 

+
Faculty Regalia

The Commencement Procession is one of the few remaining occasions for which the faculty of American colleges and universities still wear formal regalia. Participants in Wellesley's Commencement Procession reflect the colors, chevrons, velvets, and wools of diverse degrees earned here and abroad.

Perhaps the most readily identified of American regalia is the crimson robe bedecked with three black velvet stripes on the sleeve, denoting the doctoral degree of Harvard University. Although most American universities observe the traditional black robe, distinguishing among levels of education by the cut of the robe and the colors on the hood trim, Harvard is one of a number of institutions permitting colored robes (others include Yale, Brown, Boston, and Johns Hopkins Universities).

Most gowns reflect degrees earned in the United States and are prescribed by the American Council of Education; the present form was adopted in 1932 and revised in 1959.

According to this form, observed by most members of the Wellesley College faculty as degree recipients from American universities, the bachelor's gown is plain with long pointed sleeves. The master's gown is slightly fuller in cut and has long oblong sleeves open at the wrist with an arc cut in the front. The doctor's gown is still fuller with bell shaped sleeves. It is faced down the front with black velvet and has three bars of black velvet on the sleeve, although the velvet and bars may be in the color representing the bearer's academic field, as in the British system.

Hoods are the most distinctive part of the American academic dress. The exterior of the hood is black, its length is three feet for the bachelor's degree, three and one-half feet for the master's degree, and four feet for the doctor's degree. Hoods are lined with the official colors of the college or university conferring the degree, and the trimming is velvet, reflecting the color of the bearer's academic field.

For all academic purposes, including trimming of the doctor's gown and edging of hoods, the color indicating the Fields of Learning are: Art, Letters, Humanities - White; Economics - Copper; Education - Light Blue; Fine Arts - Brown; Music - Pink; Philosophy - Dark Blue; Physical Education - Sage Green; Science - Golden Yellow; Theology - Scarlet.

+
Singing America the Beautiful by Katherine Lee Bates ’80

"America The Beautiful" was written by Katharine Lee Bates, Wellesley Class of 1880, in its original form in the summer of 1893 after a trip to Colorado Springs. It first appeared in print in The Congregationalist two years later, and within a few months Silas G. Pratt set it to music. In 1904, after receiving many requests for use in publications and special services, Katharine Lee Bates rewrote it to simplify the text. She made one additional change in the wording of the third stanza a few years later, to give us the version we know today.

Over sixty original musical settings, some by distinguished musicians, have been written for the hymn. The music by S.A. Ward became the most widely accepted version and is the one still used today.

Amazed by its immediate and lasting success, Katharine Lee Bates wrote: "That the hymn has gained, in these twenty odd years, such a hold as it has upon our people, is clearly due to the fact that Americans are at heart idealists, with a fundamental faith in human brotherhood."

+
Faculty Awards

Wellesley’s tradition of academic excellence has always included a world-class faculty intent on intellectually rigorous and energetic engagement in and beyond the classroom. Wellesley offers a number of programs, grants, and awards designed to encourage the art of teaching and enhance the academic experience.