Commencement at Central Connecticut State University
Central Connecticut State University's annual undergraduate commencement exercises are held each May at the XL Center in Hartford. At present, this is the only occasion upon which bachelor's degrees are conferred by the university. Since 1989, a separate graduation ceremony has been held for recipients of postgraduate degrees. Additional midyear undergraduate commencements were held at the end of the fall terms from 1988 to 1993, and at several other points in the university's history.
From 1884 to 1994, Spring commencement was held on the CCSU campus in New Britain, but due to a lack of space and concerns about the weather, it was moved to the Hartford Civic Center, which was renamed the XL Center in 2007.
Commencements prior to 1994
Prior to moving to its present location, the school, then known alternately as the "State Normal School", and the "New Britain Normal School," occupied what is now called the Camp School building in downtown New Britain.
The graduation ceremony for the first class (numbering five graduates) took place on October 1, 1851, in the old South Congregational Church. Commencements continued to be held off-campus until 1885. No ceremonies were held in 1868 or 1869, as the school's operations had been suspended by state officials., From about 1873 to 1885, two graduations were held each year: a "first class" in January and a "second class" in June. In 1884 the college moved into the new Camp building. From that time until 1925, an average of about 80 students (nearly all young women) received teaching diplomas each year at a graduation ceremony in the school's assembly hall on a weekday morning in late June.
On-campus commencements at the Stanley Street Campus
From 1925 to 1935, commencement was held in the auditorium of the school's new building on Stanley Street. The first outdoor commencement ceremonies were held in 1936, in the college's amphitheater. The arrangement of an outdoor ceremony—held indoors in case of rain—continued until the 1990s. Over time, the location of the outdoor exercises included the college quadrangle and first of two athletics fields known as "Arute field." By the late 1940s, a building named "Memorial Hall" was used for those commencement exercises moved indoors because of rain, such as the 1955 event. In 1959, the college, which had been renamed "Teachers College of Connecticut" in 1933, became "Central Connecticut State College".
When it rained on the day of the 1963 graduation, the ceremonies were moved into the campus’ newest structure, Herbert D. Welte Hall. Although Welte Hall was employed from 1989 to 2013 for CCSU’s annual graduate commencement, as well as for graduations of Tunxis Community College, Charter Oak State College, nursing and police academies and high schools, it was soon too small to serve as an indoor backup facility for CCSU's annual commencement.
By 1965, with the number of CCSC graduates having doubled to 684 since 1960, the quadrangle could barely hold the more than 2,000 attendees, and the following year the exercises were moved to another new building, Harrison J. Kaiser Hall, which had been dedicated September 18, 1965—but soon the annual graduation ceremonies threatened to outgrow even Kaiser, which was designed to seat 4,500 spectators (not including those on the gym floor). One newspaper report referred to "3,500 people stacked up to 22 rows high," "stewing" in the June heat at the 1967 event; another article the following year describes “the estimated 5,700 jammed into steaming Kaiser Hall for the program.”
From 1969 to 1992, undergraduate commencement took place on Arute Field, a football facility in the northeast corner of campus, with the gymnasium in Kaiser Hall used occasionally in the event of rain.
As graduating classes continued to get larger (e.g., 322 graduated in 1960, 696 in 1966, 1274 in 1969, and over 2400 in 1975), officials stopped reading the names of individual graduates during the undergraduate exercises. The reading of names was reinstated in 1992. The last on-campus commencement was held on Friday, May 28, 1993. Antonia C. Novello, US Surgeon General, was the commencement speaker; she and Andrzej Wiszniewski, the Rector of the Technical University of Wrocław were also awarded honorary doctorates at the ceremony.
The move to Hartford
The discussion to relocate CCSU's annual commencement ceremonies to the Hartford Civic Center was explained by Kauffman in the Hartford Courant:
For the first time, Central Connecticut State University in New Britain will hold its graduation exercises off campus. They will be at the Hartford Civic Center May 28 . The reason: a space squeeze on campus. When the weather is good, commencement is at Arute Field, the school's football stadium. When it rains, ceremonies are moved indoors to Kaiser gymnasium, where graduates are limited to two guest tickets.
A few months after the first Hartford commencement, CCSU's administration announced the discontinuation of December commencements, citing the wishes of December graduates to participate in the Hartford ceremony in May. In October, 600 CCSU students signed a petition to reinstate the event, which was not held. However, December commencements were begun again a few years later.
Before Hartford graduations became institutionalized, it was believed by some that they would be temporary—that "whenever CCSU has an adequate place on campus, the ceremonies can be moved back." Indeed, since 1994, the state of Connecticut has funded a number of studies to address the university's lack of space. One, in 2004, explored the possibility of a CCSU sports arena at the present location of the New Brite Plaza Shopping Center, about 1.6 miles (2.6 km) from the main campus. The current campus master plan  does not appear to directly address commencement.
Order of Exercises
The ceremony is declared "open" by the president of CCSU's faculty senate. This is followed by the national anthem, sung by the CCSU University Singers. Other preliminaries have included an invocation by a member of the campus ministry, greetings from state officials, and brief remarks from the president of the CCSU Alumni Association. Greetings are also presented by students representing the graduands and by a representative of the Board of Regents of the state university system.
This is followed by a commencement address by a previously announced speaker, the singing of the Alma Mater, and the conferral of degrees. At Hartford commencements, a pair of announcers (often including professor Gil Gigliotti) read the names of each graduate present at the ceremony, after which the event ends with the drop of hundreds of balloons from the ceiling of the XL Center. In 2018 a ceremonial recession, led by the university's athletic mascot, was added to the event in 2018.
CCSU's Wind Symphony provides processional and incidental music before and during the ceremony., Both the Wind Symphony and University Singers perform under the direction of professors from CCSU's Department of Music.
The procession includes the University Mace (usually borne by the president of CCSU's faculty senate) and occasionally the University Staff. Peter J. Vernesoni, a CCSU graduate and professor from 1971 to 2003, designed and carved both of these artifacts.
CCSU undergraduate commencement speakers since 1994
CCSU's commencement speakers are often successful alumni such as Congressman John B. Larson (D-1st), CitiFinancial CEO Michael Knapp, and CCSU professor Kristine Larsen. In 2018 two ceremonies were held on May 19, each honoring both graduate and undergraduate students: a morning session for the liberal arts, social and natural sciences, engineering, and technology majors; and an afternoon session for those majoring in business, education, and other professional studies. The table below lists speakers since the event was moved to Hartford.
|date a||address given by|
|5/28/94||Eunice S. Groark, Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut  and gubernatorial candidate|
|5/27/95||Barbara B. Kennelly, US Congresswoman (D-5th)|
|5/22/96||Ellen Goodman, essayist, the Boston Globe (Wednesday-night commencement)|
|5/22/97||John J. Sweeney, president, AFL-CIO (Thursday-night commencement)|
|5/23/98||Chungwon Choue b, president, Kyung Hee University|
|5/22/99||Dave Campo b,c, coach, Dallas Cowboys|
|5/20/00||John G. Rowland, Governor of Connecticut (150th CCSU undergraduate commencement)|
|5/26/01||none, (scheduled speaker John Larson was working on a tax bill in Washington)|
|5/25/02||Michael S. Knapp b, CEO, Citifinancial|
|5/24/03||John B. Larson c, US Congressman (D-1st)|
|5/22/04||Kristine Larsen c, CCSU professor of Astronomy|
|5/21/05||Raul Allegue c, vice president / lobbyist, Travelers Insurance|
|5/20/06||Bob Englehart d, editorial cartoonist, the Hartford Courant|
|5/19/07||Joseph J. Grano, Jr. b, CEO, Centurion Holdings|
|5/17/08||M. Jodi Rell, Governor of Connecticut|
|5/23/09||Carol A. Ammon c, founder, Endo Pharmaceuticals|
|5/22/10||Heather Munro Prescott, CSU Professor of History|
|5/21/11||Leszek Balcerowicz b, former Deputy Prime Minister of Poland|
|5/18/12||Dannel P. Malloy, Governor of Connecticut (Friday-night commencement)|
|5/18/13||Gregory S. Babe, former CEO, Bayer Corporation (North America)|
|5/17/14||Erin Brady c, sitting Miss USA|
|5/16/15||John B. Larson c, US Congressman (D-1st)|
|5/21/16||John W. Miller, president, CCSU|
|5/20/17||Zulma R. Toro, president, CCSU|
|5/19/18||morning: Sue Ann Collins b,c, senior vice president and chief actuary, TIAA-CREF|
|afternoon: Charles T. Fote b, former CEO and chairman, First Data Corp|
- Much of the information in this table was compiled from CCSU's annual Commencement Exercises programs.
- Notes: (a) Commencements took place on Saturday mornings unless noted otherwise; (b) speaker awarded an honorary degree or other recognition during the ceremony; (c) speaker graduated from CCSU.
Other recent CCSU commencement speakers
Through 2017, a separate graduate commencement was held on campus, usually within a week of the undergraduate ceremony. In the past, December commencements have also been held.
|academic year||date||address given by||degrees conferred|
|2005-06||December 17||John W. Miller, President a, CCSU ||graduate|
|May 25||Bob Englehart||graduate|
|2006-07||December 16||Denise L. Nappier, Connecticut State Treasurer||all|
|2007-08||December 15||Christopher S. Murphy, US Congressman (D-5th)||all|
|2008-09||May 27||Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. b, former Governor of Connecticut||graduate|
|2009-10||May 27||Timothy G. Reagan, CSU Professor of Teacher Education||graduate|
|2010-11||May 25||Michael P. Meotti, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Higher Education||graduate|
|2011-12||May 16||Michael Foran c, Principal, New Britain High School, and 2012 National High School Principal of the Year||graduate|
|2012-13||May 16||Robbin E. Smith, CCSU Professor of Political Science ||graduate|
|2013-14||May 15||Angelo Messina c,d, Vice President, Global Financial Services, United Technologies Corporation ||graduate|
|2014-15||May 14||Carol A. Ammon c, founder, Endo Pharmaceuticals ||graduate|
|2015-16||May 19||John W. Miller, President, CCSU||graduate|
|2016-17||May 18||Zulma R. Toro, President, CCSU ||graduate|
- Events through May 2013 were held in Welte Auditorium; thereafter they have been held in the Kaiser Gymnasium.
- The information in this table was compiled from CCSU's annual Commencement Exercises programs.
- Notes: (a) Miller was the president-designate until the “Ceremony of Investiture,” which preceded his address; thus he is listed as “President” here. His de facto presidency had begun the previous June. The degrees were conferred after the investiture and address. (b) speaker awarded an honorary degree during the ceremony; (c) speaker graduated from CCSU; (d) speaker's daughter graduated from CCSU.
Recipients of CCSU Honorary Degrees
CCSU has awarded 54 honorary doctoral degrees since 1985. Awardees have included the CEOs or Chairmen of six major corporations, eight heads of state, and a variety of others. About half of these have been awarded at commencement ceremonies, and in most of these cases, the conferee has given the commencement address. Although significant non-degree honors have historically been awarded by the institution, honorary doctorates were not conferred until after Central Connecticut State College was renamed Central Connecticut State University in 1983. U.S. President Jimmy Carter became the first recipient on April 16, 1985, receiving a Doctor of Humane Letters. The most recent awardees are Lowell P. Weicker, Jr., former US Senator and Governor of Connecticut (D.P.S., 2009) and Leszek Balcerowicz, professor, Warsaw School of Economics and former Deputy Prime Minister of Poland (Sc.D., 2011).
In addition to Carter, U.S. Presidents Gerald R. Ford (L.H.D., 1988), George H. W. Bush (LL.D., 1999), and George W. Bush (LL.D., 2001) received honorary CCSU degrees. József Antall, Jr., Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary (LL.D., 1991); Brian Mulroney, Prime Minister of Canada (D.S.Sc., 1994); Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (L.H.D., 1993); and Lech Wałęsa, President of Poland (L.H.D., 1996) also received honorary CCSU degrees. Each of these was a former head of state of the conferral of his degree except for Antall and George W. Bush.
- Associated Press. Former sideshow worker near head of her class (1998, December 18). Houston Chronicle, p. C21.
- Stansbury, Robin. (1993, Dec 12). Graduating Central college seniors told to take some risks, never give up. Hartford Courant, p. B3.
- Kauffman, Matthew. CCSU graduates take center court at coliseum ceremonies. Hartford Courant, 5/29/1994. Retrieved on 2015-5-27.
- Anniversary exercises of the State Normal School, New Britain (1851, Oct 06). Hartford Daily Courant, p. 2.
- Northrop, G. G. (1867, Sep 18). The Normal School. Hartford Daily Courant, p. 8.
- Northrop, G. G. (1869, Jul 30). The Normal School. Hartford Daily Courant, p. 2.
- Teachers College Graduation Class To Number 120: Degrees to Be Awarded for Completing Four Years of Study. (1936, May 7). Hartford Courant, p. 5.
- This building was later razed and is not to be confused with CCSU's present Memorial Hall.
- Dr. Stoddard speaker at college graduation. (1955, Jun 13). Hartford Courant, p. 19C.
- for a complete chronology, see CCSU's Wikipedia entry.
- Commencement moves inside as rain looms. (1963, Jun 10). Hartford Courant p. 12D
- Dr. Welte is honored at auditorium dedication. (1963, May 02). Hartford Courant, p. 4D
- 681 degrees given at CCSC commencement. (1965, Jun 07). Hartford Courant, p. 17B.
- Central dedicates new gym today in honor of retired H. J. Kaiser. (1965, Sep 18). Hartford Courant, p. 19.
- Visitors stew in CCSC heat. (1967, Jun 12). Hartford Courant, p. 16A
- Dempsey praises graduates. (1968, Jun 10). Hartford Courant, p. 19
- the 1992 Dial [Central Connecticut State University’s yearbook] cites Ruth Amaio’s as “the first person’s name to be called in Central’s first name-calling commencement” (p. 246).
- Carlson, Meredith. Central honors accident victim. Hartford Courant, 5/29/1993. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Leukhardt, B. (1994, Oct 19). CCSU seniors protest dropping of winter ceremony. Hartford Courant, p. B1
- CCSU in Hartford (Our towns: New Britain). Hartford Courant, 5/11/94. Retrieved on 2012-5-22. CCSU in Hartford (Our towns: New Britain). Hartford Courant, 5/11/94. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Downtown arena worth look (Our towns: New Britain). Hartford Courant, 9/24/04. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Although a master restructuring plan exists encompassing approximately 2012-2020, the CCSU website's "Campus master plan Archived 2012-01-13 at the Wayback Machine." page links to a 1998-1999 document, which has caused confusion (e.g., Walsh, Michael. Statement from the editor on ‘Master Plan Includes Facility Upgrades’. Central Recorder, 3/30/11. Retrieved on 2012-5-22).
- Abel, Jennifer. Messages of hope heard at CCSU ceremony. New Britain Herald, 5/24/09. Retrieved on 2009-9-9.
- Rathi, Rachana. Finding comfort in change: Let the commencement commence. Hartford Courant, 5/20/07. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 16, 2012). Commencement exercises: May 2012, p. 18.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 17, 2008). Commencement exercises: May 17, 2008, p. 34.
- Malec, Nicole M. 1,700 graduate from Central Connecticut State. Hartford Courant, 5/28/1995. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Taylor, Frances Grandy. More than 2,000 get CCSU degrees. Hartford Courant, 5/23/1996. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Frahm, Robert A.. At CCSU, a party mood as 2,000 get degrees. Hartford Courant, 5/23/1997. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Silverman, Fran. Baby sister' at CCSU is center of attention. Hartford Courant, 5/24/1998. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Greenwood, Michael. Let the celebration begin: Central grads told to `seize the day'. Hartford Courant, 5/23/1999. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Nagy, Barbara A. 1,500 finish CCSU career at Civic Center. Hartford Courant, 5/21/2000. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Condon, Garret. A missing speaker, but a loud ovation: Tuskegee Airmen lauded at CCSU graduation. Hartford Courant, 5/27/2001. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Bank leader to speak at CCSU graduation. Hartford Courant, 5/21/2002. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Larson will speak at CCSU graduation. Hartford Courant, 5/9/2003. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Stacom, Don. Rell, Judd address grads in the state: University of New Haven, Central send forth graduates. Hartford Courant, 5/23/2004. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Waldman, Loretta. Graduate, 84, looks forward to next mark. Hartford Courant, 5/22/2004. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Waldman, Loretta. 1,800 receive diplomas at Central's graduation: A festive commencement at the Hartford Civic Center draws an estimated 8,000 friends and family members.. Hartford Courant, 5/22/2005. Retrieved on 2012-5-22.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 20, 2006). Commencement exercises: Two thousand and six, p. 3.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 19, 2007). Commencement exercises: May Two thousand and seven, p. 3.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 17, 2008). Commencement exercises: May 17, 2008, p. 4.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 23, 2009). Commencement exercises: May 2009, p. 5.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 22, 2010). Commencement exercises: May 2010, p. 5.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 21, 2011). Commencement exercises: May 2011, p. 5.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 16, 2012). Commencement exercises: May 2012, p. 18.
- Mares, L. (2013, May 14). Ashley Walker to receive special recognition at CCSU graduation. New Britain Herald.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 16, 2013). Commencement exercises: May 2013, p. 44 [unpaginated].
- Central Connecticut State University (May 17, 2014). Commencement exercises: May 2014, p. 44.
- Burnham, Johnny. CCSU students prepare for new chapter. New Britain Herald, 5/14/2015. Retrieved on 2015-5-25.
- Owens, David (2015, May 17). At CCSU Graduation, Larson Touts Public Service Program. Hartford Courant, 5/17/2015. Retrieved on 2015-5-27.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 14, 2015). Commencement exercises: May 2015, p. 37.
- Stoller, Kristen. Dreams And Gumbo On Menu For CCSU Graduates On Saturday. Hartford Courant, 5/21/2016. Retrieved on 2018-5-18.
- Stacom, Don. [Never Lose Focus On Personal Values, CCSU Grads Told]. Hartford Courant, 5/21/17. Retrieved on 2018-5-18.
- CCSU Undergraduate Commencement 2017. YouTube, 8/27/2017. Retrieved on 2018-5-18.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 19, 2018). Commencement exercises: May 19, 2018, p. 5.
- Lurye, Rebecca. Grads Share One More Journey As Blue Devils At CCSU Commencement. Hartford Courant, 5/19/2018. Retrieved on 2018-5-19.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 19, 2018). Commencement exercises: May 19, 2018, p. 7.
- Mares, L. (2013, May 14).Walker to receive special recognition at CCSU graduation. New Britain Herald.
- Central Connecticut State University (December 17, 2005). The forty-ninth graduate commencement exercises & The investiture of Dr. John W. Miller as the twelfth president of Central Connecticut State University, p. 1.
- Central Connecticut State University (December 16, 2006 ). Commencement exercises: December Two thousand and six, p. 3.
- 2017 Central Connecticut State University Graduate Commencement Exercises, YouTube.
- Central Connecticut State University (May 14, 2015). Commencement exercises: May 2015, p. 39-40.