New Exhibit - University at Albany's Past Commencements

by Mark Wolfe - May 04, 2011

The two display cases near the entrance to the University Library contain items from Special Collections and Archives about the University at Albany's Past Commencements. 1960_Alumni copy.jpg

The New York State Normal School, as the University at Albany was originally known, was founded in 1844 and held its first graduation ceremony on August 27, 1845. The Normal School awarded diplomas to thirty-four students, who are listed in the Executive Committee Annual Report to the New York State Legislature, January. 27, 1846.


The New York State Legislature created the State Normal School to train teachers for the common schools of New York State. It was the fourth state normal school in the country, the first in New York and the first outside of Massachusetts. On January 23, 1885, U. S. President elect and New York State Governor Grover Cleveland presents degrees at Commencement for the New York State Normal School in Albany, N.Y. See the illustration from The Daily Graphic, January 27, 1885, p. 630.

As the University expanded into the 20th century, the School held Commencement ceremonies at various locations including the downtown campus, Alumni Quadrangle, University Field, on the Science Library lawn and at Collins Circle. Included on display are an 1860 diploma, programs, documents, and photographs from past Commencements including 1845, 1880, 1916, 1954, 1962 and 2003 as well as the lyrics for the University's Alma Mater, which are sung during graduation ceremonies. We have selected commencement video that is available online including:

-- Distinguished author Isaac Bashevis Singer's speech at the University at Albany's 137th Annual Commencement held on May 24, 1981 at University Field.

-- Marcia Brown's (Class of 1940 ) acceptance speech after being awarded the Honorary Doctorate from the State University of New York. 152nd Commencement ceremony, University at Albany, May 19, 1996.