May 14, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 9
Back Issues
‘Our Students Lead Us’
Sullivan Award-winners
Part of the fabric of University life
Curiosity drives Mitman’s pursuits
‘Reverend Nurse:’
At 52, Valley minister feels call to care for the whole person, spiritually and physically
Leap of a lifetime:
Athlete Kim Turko jumps a formidable hurdle — life-threatening illness
He’ll be back:
Adult education graduate studies adult education
‘Hungry to Help:’
Student refugee wants to improve the lives of Burma’s forgotten children
Revitalizing Main Street:
Jill Nolt’s plan for her hometown high school makes front-page news
Peace Corps bound:
Business major trades fast lane for slow pace on Tonga
First in her family:
Angela Caldwell, a Native American, overcomes community attitudes to become lawyer
From Crane’s love of the cosmos comes new era for stargazers
A history of Finals
Sharlotte Bolyard is flying high
A ministry of medicine

Bombay bound:
Darden grad to apply best U.S. business practices to family company in India

Peer educator looks beyond educating:
Health advocacy is next step for Alyssa Lederer

No ‘cookie-cutter’ solutions:
Family expert Charmaine Yoest says creativity, flexibility are keys to resolving work/family issues

Reflections on the road to enlightenment:
Thirteen years, one class at a time, but who was counting?

‘Connecting communities:’
Presentation on African-American history at U.Va. gets students thinking, talking
A history of Finals
McIntire Amphitheatre
U.Va. Special Collections
For 32 years — from 1921 to 1953 — Final Exercises were held in the McIntire Amphitheatre.

By Katherine Thompson Jackson

Mr. Jefferson, if he were here today, he might be surprised to see thousands of graduates and visitors participating in Final Exercises, the University’s collective name for the various graduation activities that take place each May in Charlottesville. (The term harks back to an era when students traditionally hosted four large dance-party weekends on the University Grounds: Openings, Mid-Winters, Easters, and Finals – the latter of which also included graduation festivities.)

While Jefferson’s educational blueprint for the “Academical Village” he created in 1819 is largely unchanged, the conferring of degrees and diplomas was not a part of his original plans for the University.

In July 1829, about 10 years after the University opened it doors, and 15 months after Jefferson’s death, the first graduation was held in the Rotunda Dome Room.

In 1853, an annex housing a public hall was completed on the north side of the Rotunda, and graduation exercises moved from the Dome Room to this location. The ceremony remained simple.

By 1902, however, Cabell Hall had been built at the south end of the Lawn, and commencement activities moved to Cabell auditorium.

The academic procession, which serves as a hallmark of today’s Final Exercises, did not begin until sometime after 1904, when Edwin Alderman became the University’s first president. Lamenting the lack of pomp and circumstance, Alderman directed that graduating students and faculty members — adorned in academic regalia — march from the newly rebuilt Rotunda down the Lawn to Cabell Hall.

In 1921, the McIntire Amphitheatre was completed, and beginning the following year, the academic procession ended there instead of at Cabell Hall.

With the exception of the war years in the 1940s, when smaller classes permitted commencement to be held in the Dome Room and the Cabell auditorium, graduation exercises remained at the McIntire Amphitheatre until 1953. That year, University President Colgate W. Darden Jr., requested the ceremony be moved outdoors to the spacious South Lawn, where Finals continue to be held.

Today, more than 30,000 parents, guests and faculty members watch the celebratory procession of more than 5,500 students walking down the Lawn, where the University’s president confers their degrees.


© Copyright 2004 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

UVa Home Page UVa Events Calendar Top News UVa Home Page