Traditions and Symbols

The Commencement ceremony is steeped in tradition, from the academic attire to the music and the various symbols. Learn the meaning and history of these traditions here.

Academic Regalia

The regalia worn for Commencements is patterned after the gowns and hoods worn regularly in the Middle Ages by scholars for warmth in unheated buildings and as distinguishing dress denoting their place in society.

Since 1895, a uniform intercollegiate code of style and colors has been adhered to by most institutions in the United States. In accordance with this code, most academic gowns are black, although some universities permit other solid colors. Occasionally, the robe color may indicate a professional distinction, such as deep purple for law or scarlet for ecclesiastical honors. Sometimes a distinguishing device on the robe or cap indicates an individual honor or special occasion.

The baccalaureate gown is of simple cut with full, somewhat pointed sleeves. The front is closed and often no hood is worn with this gown. The mortarboard head covering originated in ancient Greece, symbolizing the commitment of the scholar to a life of building. It has either a plain black tassel or one of a color that indicates the subject area of the degree. The custom of shifting the cap's tassel from right to left at the time of awarding the degree is used in lieu of investing each candidate with a bachelor's hood.

The master's gown is similar to the bachelor's gown, except that the sleeves are fuller, cut square with a half-circle at the bottom and sometimes worn with the arms through a horizontal slit at elbow level.

The doctoral robe is ampler in cut with a full bell-shaped sleeve, velvet panel edging in the front, and three velvet stripes on each sleeve. The velvet trim may be black or in a color appropriate to the degree. The mortarboard tassel for the doctorate is gold. Some American and many foreign universities use cap forms other than the mortar board, ranging from a soft velvet beret to more elaborate fringed styles, each of which has its own historical tradition.

Hoods worn over the gowns have a velvet edging, usually in a color indicating the specific degree, and a lining that is partially turned out to show the colors of the college or university which granted the degree.

Some of the colors used for tassels and velvet panels to designate the degree are:

Arts, Letters, Humanities | White
Master of Arts in English Studies
Master of Arts in History
Master of Arts in Literature
Master of Science in Organizational Leadership

Commerce, Accountancy, Business | Drab
Master of Business Administration in Business Administration
Master of Professional Accounting in Professional Accounting
Master of Science in Management

Dentistry | Lilac
Master of Science in Dental Hygiene

Education | Light Blue
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
Educational Specialist in School Psychology
Master of Education in Adult Education
Master of Education in Business Education
Master of Education in Career & Technical Education
Master of Education in Career & Technical Education Administrator
Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction
Master of Education in Early Childhood Education
Master of Education in Educational Foundations
Master of Education in Educational Leadership
Master of Education in Health & Physical Education
Master of Education in Literacy
Master of Education in Special Education
Master of Education in Teaching

Fine Arts | Brown
Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Music | Pink
Master of Music Education

Occupational Therapy | Slate Blue
Master of Occupational Therapy in Occupational Therapy

Physical Therapy | Teal
Doctor of Physical Therapy

Public Administration | Peacock Blue
Master of Public Administration in Public Administration
Master of Urban & Regional Planning in Urban & Regional Planning

Public Health | Salmon Pink
Master of Public Health in Public Health

Science | Gold
Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies
Master of Computer Science in Professional Computer Science
Master of Science in Applied Mathematics
Master of Science in Biology
Master of Science in Communication Sciences & Disorders
Master of Science in Communications
Master of Science in Computer Science
Master of Science in Counseling
Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies
Master of Science in Psychology
Master of Science in Psychometry

Social Work | Citron
Master of Arts in Addiction Studies
Master of Arts in Advanced Addiction Therapies
Master of Arts in Behavioral Health
Master of Arts in Child Life
Master of Social Work in Social Work

Wellness and Movement Sciences | Sage Green
Master of Science in Athletic Training
Master of Science in Wellness & Movement Sciences

University Mace

The tradition of the ceremonial mace for academic institutions goes back to medieval times. Adapted in form from the ancient battle weapon used by knights, the ceremonial mace symbolized the authority of regal personages, city or ruling bodies and chief officers of chartered institutions. Originally representing vested authority during all official meetings, it eventually  came to be connected with formal ceremonies. At the Commencement ceremony, the EWU Mace will lead the procession of the platform party.

Created by Clifford Gaynard, Eastern's mace was commissioned as a gift during the centennial year to the university from the EWU Board of Trustees.

EWU mace

EWU Alma Mater

The EWU Alma Mater was composed in 1947 by alumnus George W. Lotzenhiser. Learn more about Lotzenhiser and his inspiration in "Lotzenhiser: An Eastern Original", an article featured in the September 2013 issue of Eastern.

All hail to Eastern Washington,
Thy colors red and white!

You stand as a symbol,
Of our strength and might!
All hail to Eastern Washington,
A leader brave and true!
We sing the praise of college days,
All hail to you!