Graduation robes or “academic regalia” go back to the Middle Ages. The first European universities were started about the time the great cathedrals were being built, and they were also church-related. In those days, most men wore some form of hose (tights) with a gown — short for informal wear and long for formal wear — over them. The clergy, and the students in the new universities, wore black gowns because black did not show ink stains, and these were their ordinary garments during their days of taking notes and copying out texts with a quill pen and a horn of liquid ink.
A detachable hood was part of the standard medieval dress as well; it hung over the shoulders and could be pulled up over the head to keep the sun or rain off, or pulled off with a little rear extension called the liripipe and allowed to hang down the back. Originally the hoods too were black.
By the Renaissance, hats were in and hoods were out. Most hats were soft, flat bags like a tam. The larger ones needed a cardboard stiffener to keep them from falling down over the wearer’s eyes. In the eighteenth century in Oxford, poor undergraduates asked the tailors to leave off as much fabric as they could, so the cardboard stiffeners were all that remained. People thought they resembled the boards masons carried on their heads when working so the term “mortarboard” came into use.
Also in the eighteenth century, hoods became more colorful and were often made in colors that indicated the particular college or degree. Ornamental tassels were added to the mortarboards and generally worn (after graduation) hanging off the left side to keep a clear view of the writing hand. The whole regalia — cap, hood and gown — was worn to all lectures and at all formal college functions right up until the nineteenth century, and in many English colleges the gown is still worn by students attending classes. At Mary Baldwin, seniors put on their caps and gowns for the first time on Founders Day of their senior year, and add the hoods, which are lined with Mary Baldwin’s white and yellow colors, at commencement. The white facings represent the liberal arts. Specialized degrees all have their own different colors, but the liberal arts, like white light, is composed of all the colors.
—Lundy Pentz, Associate Faculty Marshal
ROBES: Baccalaureate and master’s level gowns are usually black and are untrimmed, with the sleeves of the master’s gown generally longer. Velvet panels down the front of the gown distinguish doctoral gowns, which may be black or a school color of the university granting the degree. Three horizontal velvet bars, usually of the color representing the wearer’s degree, also mark the doctorate.
CAPS: Only doctoral caps may be made of velvet.
HOODS: The length of the hood indicates the degree, with the bachelor’s being three feet long, the master’s three and one half, and the doctoral four feet. The color of the lining indicates the university at which the degree was earned and is usually the school color.
The border of the hood indicates the academic discipline in which the degree was earned, as follows:
Architecture and Fine Arts – Brown
Arts and Letters– White
Business – Light Brown
Economics – Copper
Education – Light Blue
Engineering – Orange
Dentistry – Lilac
Law – Purple
Library Science – Lemon
Medicine – Green
Music – Pink
Nursing – Apricot
Oratory – Silver Gray
Pharmacy – Olive
Philosophy – Dark Blue
Physical Education – Sage Green
Public Administration – Peacock Blue
Public Health – Salmon
Science – Golden Yellow
Social Work – Citron Yellow
Theology – Scarlet
ACADEMIC REGALIA FOR GRADUATING SENIORS
BACHELOR’S DEGREE CANDIDATES
ACADEMIC HONORS AND NATIONAL HONORS SOCIETIES
Alpha Kappa Delta
Phi of Virginia Chapter
Teal cord; worn by students who qualify; purchased by the Sociology/Social Work department
International Sociology Honor Society.
Alpha Lambda Delta
Honor cords are triple strands of gold, white, and red; purchased by the Office of First Year Experience and given to seniors at Honors Convocation
The National Honor Society for First Year Students
Alpha Sigma Lambda
Purple and gold cord; purchased and worn by students who qualify at their choice
National honor society for returning adult students
Beta Beta Beta
Alpha Pi Chapter
Red and green cord; purchased and worn by students who qualify at their choice
Biological Sciences Honor Society
Iota Sigma Pi
White, green, and yellow cords; purchased and worn by students who qualify at their choice
Women in Chemistry National Honor Society
Kappa Delta Pi
Purple and green cords
International Honor Society for education
Lambda Pi Eta
Red and white cord; purchased and distributed by the department
National honor society of the National Communication Assoc.
MBC Global Honors Scholars Society
A gold graduation tassel (hung from the mortar board); purchased by the college society and distributed to all students who qualify
Omicron Delta Epsilon
Blue and yellow cord; purchased and distributed by the department to those seniors who qualify
International Economics honor society
Omicron Delta Kappa
White, blue, and black cords; purchased and worn by students who qualify at their choice
National honorary leadership society
A single gold cord; purchased and worn by students who qualify at their choice
Phi Alpha is the National Honor Society for Social Work students
Phi Alpha Theta
Red and light blue cord; purchased and worn by students who qualify at their choice
National honor society in History
Phi Beta Kappa
PBK gold pin; purchased and worn by students who qualify at their choice
The oldest national, academic Honor Society
Gold cord (with gold and blue tassels at each end); issued by the dept. to all students who meet the academic criteria
National honor society in Psychology
Sigma Beta Delta
Knotted dark green and gold cords with tassels, purchased and worn by students who qualify at their choice.
International Honor Society for Business, Management and Administration
Sigma Pi Sigma
Green and ivory cords; purchased and distributed to students who qualify
National Honor Society for outstanding scholarship in physics
Sigma Tau Delta
Red and black cords with tassels; purchased and worn by student who qualify at their choice
International Honor Society that recognizes high achievement in the study of English
Student Class Marshals
Gold epaulet, worn over left shoulder; lent to each student marshal
Selected from top students in each class by faculty marshals
OTHER FORMS OF RECOGNITION AT COMMENCEMENT
Office of Inclusive Excellence
African Kente cloth stoles purchased by the college program and awarded at the Ajani ceremony prior to Commencement
Senior Class Officers
A small lapel pin worn on the left side of gown with MBC college seal and officer’s position.
Student Government Officers
A small 1.5 inch horizontal black and gold pin with SGA and the cupola from the Lyda B. Hunt dining hall on the top and the words “Executive Committee,” under SGA and the cupola. The pin is worn on the left side of the gown. SGA officers must have and maintain a 2.75 with the President a 3.0 or higher.
Cynthia Haldenby Tyson Leadership Pin
A small gold lapel pin worn on the left side of gown, approved 2006
Gold apple charm on tassel; given to students who made a gift to MBC
Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership
Green and gold cord; awarded to all students who complete VWIL program requirements
MASTER’S DEGREE CANDIDATES
Black, white, gold hood purchased by students
Black, light blue, gold hood purchased by students
Gold hood with white velvet border purchased by students
White and gold hood with brown velvet border purchased by students
Gowns worn by master’s degree candidates are the bat wing–shaped sleeves. The hood is different, too: It is longer than the one that is worn by those who have earned the bachelor’s degree. The lining is yellow and white, Mary Baldwin College’s official school colors. The trim is white for the Master of Arts in Teaching program and the Master of Letters in Shakespeare and Performance, while the Master of Education program has light blue trim and the Master of Fine Arts in Shakespeare and Performance has brown trim.