Commencement Day begins at 9 a.m. when, with a first trumpet fanfare, graduates of all university schools and colleges march onto Alumni Lawn, accompanied by banners and music from two brass quintets.
After the graduates are seated, a second fanfare sounds and the faculty, led by the provost and the vice chancellor for health affairs, enter from the rear of the audience. When the faculty are seated, a third fanfare sounds. The order of procession is as follows: the president of the Alumni Association, members of the 50 year reunion class, chair of the Faculty Senate carrying the mace, members of the Board of Trust, the officers of administration and ending with the Chancellor and chairman of the Board of Trust.
Faculty members wear regalia (cap and gown) in an array of colors and designs, indicating the universities from which they received their degrees.
The mace—displayed as a symbol of the university’s authority to confer degrees — includes gilded metal Vanderbilt monograms, embattled shields and acorns, irises and magnolias mounted on rosewood, all symbols from Vanderbilt’s history. The Centennial Seal, attached to the lectern, is a silver and walnut representation of the Vanderbilt University seal. The Chancellor’s insignia is a silver and gold collar that also incorporates university emblems.
After the mace is placed on the lectern, there is the recognition of professors emeriti, the awarding of Founder’s Medals and the conferring of degrees. The chancellor then offers his farewell remarks to the graduates.
At approximately 10:15 a.m., the graduate and professional schools recess and go to their individual hooding and diploma-awarding ceremonies (see schedule of events and campus map for locations). The undergraduate seniors in the College of Arts and Science, the Blair School of Music, the School of Engineering and Peabody College remain on Alumni Lawn to receive their diplomas. As each graduate’s name is called, the graduate receives his or her diploma, walks across the platform, and shakes hands with the chancellor before returning to the seating section. Singing of the Alma Mater concludes the ceremony.