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IUPUI Commencement

Annual Events : Commencement

Students celebrate at the 2004 Commencement.

For nearly two-thirds of our history, Mother's Day has been extra special day for IUPUI seniors and their mothers: it's also been the date of IUPUI's commencement ceremonies. Our students have been able to turn their crowning academic achievement into a dual celebration honoring their moms.

In fact, the unique marriage of Mother's Day and graduation has produced some unusual stories, thanks to IUPUI's unusual stature as a home of both traditional-age and returning students. On a regular basis, mothers of college-age kids have shared diploma day with their child. IUPUI has even had — on rare occasions — three generations of students honored on the same day.

More than 120,000 men and women have received their degrees from our schools, most of them through commencement ceremonies that have been held in four different settings.

1970 Commencement Ceremony, courtesy University Library Special Collections & Archives #UA24-002413
The first IUPUI commencement ceremony was held in the Fairgrounds Coliseum in 1970.

Our first two graduating classes—1970 and 1971—received their degrees at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum. For the next half-dozen years, (1972 through 1977) the ceremony was held at the Indianapolis Convention & Exposition Center. The now-dismantled Market Square Arena was the site of graduation ceremonies in 1978 due to a scheduling conflict with the Convention Center, but IUPUI returned to that site from 1979 to 1983. The opening of the Hoosier Dome—now the RCA Dome—in 1984 gave commencement a large-scale setting within the Convention Center complex. The dome has hosted more than 20 IUPUI ceremonies.

Another move is on the horizon for IUPUI's future graduates. When the new home of the Indianapolis Colts comes on line—expected in 2008—then the RCA Dome will be demolished and the campus will move in still another direction.

Maynard Hine speaks at the 1971 Commencement Ceremony, courtesy University Library Special Collections & Archives #UA24-006755
Maynard Hine, the campus' first chancellor, speaks at the 1971 Commencement.

Even before IUPUI was born in 1969, commencement had a history in the Indianapolis programs of IUPUI's ancestors, Indiana and Purdue. Purdue's Indianapolis programs hosted a commencement ceremony in 1947, but the West Lafayette management team was less than pleased by that prospect; the Purdue programs didn't have another graduation ceremony until 1968, when commencement was held at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis.

Two schools that began life as stand-alone programs but eventually became IU schools also had ceremonies of their own, including Herron (now the Herron School of Art & Design) and the Normal College of the American Gymnastic Union (now the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management).

Herron's graduation rites became part of our commencement celebration as soon as the art school became part of the IU family, while Physical Education followed a different path. Our PE graduates were part of the Bloomington celebration from the time Normal College joined IU in 1941 until 1972. In 1974, the school, now known as the IU School of Physical Education, joined in our ceremonies.