U of T banner on podium inside Convocation Hall

U of T's three campuses gear up for spring convocation celebrations

Adina Bresge

Excitement is sweeping across the University of Toronto’s three campuses as soon-to-be graduates prepare to close one chapter of their lives – and open another – at this spring’s convocation ceremonies.

Family, friends and guests will gather at Convocation Hall to cheer on more than 12,700 graduating students who are expected to cross the stage and receive their diplomas during 32 ceremonies held between June 1 and 22.

Learn more about UTM's ceremonies at Convocation Hall

This spring’s graduates will represent more than 106 countries, including Canada, and range in age from 17 to 79. In total, more than 21,000 students will graduate from U of T this year, including 15,800 this spring.

President Meric Gertler said he is looking forward to celebrating the achievements of the Class of 2023 during U of T’s tradition-rich ceremonies, calling it a personal highlight of the academic year.

“I am truly humbled to be part of this momentous occasion, which marks the culmination of each student’s academic journey,” President Gertler said. “Many members of the Class of 2023 pursued part of their studies during the pandemic’s most difficult years – and their resilience and perseverance have been an inspiration to us all.

“I am confident that each one of our new graduates will use the knowledge, skills and experience they’ve gained during their time at the University of Toronto to reach new heights of excellence and help shape the world for the better.”

The spring convocation schedule kicks off with the ceremony for the Temerty Faculty of Medicine on June 1 and concludes with Woodsworth College on June 22. The university remains a mask-friendly environment, and supports all those who choose to use a medical mask in high-density indoor spaces when physical distancing is not possible.

While each graduating student has been allotted two tickets for guests inside the hall, the ceremonies will be livestreamed at U of T’s Convocation Hub and an additional viewing area will be set up inside the Sandford Fleming building.

The festivities will feature numerous traditions that date back more than a century, including organ music, convocation speakers, hoods and gowns, a bedel carrying U of T’s gold-plated mace and a 51-bell carillon ringing out from atop Soldiers’ Tower.

The chancellor’s procession will be led by the Eagle Feather Bearer in recognition of the university’s enduring relationship with Indigenous Peoples. The Eagle Feather – a sacred symbol in many Indigenous cultures, including the Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas – was first introduced as a ceremonial element during last spring’s convocation ceremonies.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, U of T staff are busy preparing Convocation Hall and printing parchments, which must then be carefully placed into envelopes and double- and triple-checked against a long list of graduating students. The current and retired faculty, as well as staff, who act as readers during the ceremonies spend hours practising the pronunciation of graduands’ names.

As construction on the Landmark Project progresses, the west side of King’s College Circle will be open for the procession to Convocation Hall from the Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship, where students will collect their regalia and assemble. Access to Myhal will be limited to graduating students and those in the academic procession.

Sixteen luminaries are set to receive honorary degrees at this spring’s convocation ceremonies. Graduating students, meanwhile, will be presented on the stage by degree in alphabetical order.

Chancellor Rose Patten, who is chair of convocation and confers all degrees, says every graduate who crosses the stage becomes an ambassador of the values that set U of T apart as a world-leading institution.

“A degree from the University of Toronto is not only a certificate of academic achievement, but a passport to lifelong learning, leadership and service,” Patten said. “It gives me enormous pride to see our graduates carry forward our commitments to inclusive excellence, collaborative innovation and sustainable stewardship.”

At the end of the ceremony, graduates will follow the chancellor out of Convocation Hall in a recent addition to the academic recessional, said Samantha Smith, acting director of the Office of Convocation.

“The graduates are now treated with the same level of formality as the faculty, staff and other senior officials that are participating,” says Smith. “This further reinforces the message of equity that we work very hard to ensure is present in all 32 ceremonies.”

The recessional will end on Galbraith Road, where graduates can reunite with their guests and take part in activities, including a photo booth operated by Alumni Relations.

In addition to its College Street storefront, the University of Toronto Bookstore will offer framing services in a tent at Knox College. The courtyard is one of many photogenic locations on the three campuses for pre- and post-graduation snapshots, which can be shared on social media under the hashtag #UofTGrad23.

“On behalf of the University of Toronto, I want to wish each member of the Class of 2023, as well as their families and friends, a heartfelt congratulations for reaching this important moment,” President Gertler said.

“We can’t wait to see what you do next.”

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