Many are familiar with the typical commencement traditions: processions of students in graduation gowns and faculty in colorful robes; the playing of “Pomp and Circumstance”; the joyous tossing of caps in the air.
While Amherst does all of this, it also has a unique tradition: Immediately after receiving a diploma, every graduate also receives a cane.
The canes are a 19th-century College tradition revived and reshaped by the class of 2003 to celebrate class unity and spirit. Made possible by a gift from Brian J. Conway ’80 and Kevin J. Conway ’80 to endow the Fund for College Canes, what are now known as the Conway Canes are presented to all Amherst seniors to mark their graduation and to serve as an enduring symbol of their connection to their class, to a unique tradition and to the graduates’ alma mater.
The graduates aren’t the only ones who leave Commencement with canes. This year, honorary degree recipients, the winner of the College’s Medal for Eminent Service, the honorary marshal and three Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Teaching Award recipients will also receive them.
The canes will be on full display at Amherst’s 196th Commencement on Sunday, May 21, at 10 a.m. on the College’s Main Quadrangle. (The event will also be webcast for friends and family members unable to make it to campus.)
Here are some more fun facts about this year’s graduates and Commencement itself.