Special Collection Treasures
Published on May 25, 2017 by Becky Hyde
campus photo

In Special Collection, we are celebrating the graduation of the Class of 2017 by looking back at commencement materials from Samford University's history.

Before Samford was the university that it is today, the school began as Howard College in Marion, Alabama in 1841. The first documented commencement exercises had 7 graduates and was held on July 27, 1848. Since then, Samford has continued to grow. This year, Samford held seven different ceremonies across the different colleges that make up Samford University, with 1,237 students graduating this spring.

The earliest commencement program in Special Collection is from 1882, while the school was still located in Marion. Over the years, our graduation ceremonies, invitations, and programs have changed.

Commencement invitation and program, 1882
Music page, 1882

This invitation from 1884 was hand lettered

Fringe on commencement invitation cover, 1884
Wednesday, June 11, '84

Howard College moved to the Birmingham area in 1887, the main building of the campus in East Lake can be seen on the cover of this invitation from 1912. The turn of the century brought Howard to its new campus and to the option of leather-bound invitations that also contain program information.

Commencement invitation cover, 1912 Commencement program information page in 1912 invitation

The duo below is from 1920. It showcases a stamped leather cover encasing the invitation and program from the commencement ceremony.

Commencement invitations, stamped leather cover and page from 1920 Commencement program pages from 1920

This set from 1932 shows both the paper and leather (in blue) options for the invitations. By this time, the programs were starting to have more information than just the order of the ceremony.

Commencement blue leather and white paper invitations for 1932

Paper covered invitation and program from 1944.

Commencement invitation and program from 1944

The design for the commencement program stayed pretty much the same from the late 1920's through 1984. This program from 1964 looks very similar to the one from 1944.

Commencement program from 1944

As the school grew, so did the size of the programs. This program from 1990 contains several stapled pages and is letter sized.

Commencement program from 1990

Today our programs are booklets with glued bindings and are unique in their design each year. The program with the watercolor of Reid Chapel is from 2014. The other is from Spring 2016, when we officially began our 175th anniversary celebrations.

Commencement programs from 2014 and 2016

Congratulations to the class of 2017, you are now and forever part of Samford's long history.