Michael Cooper-White


Millions of graduates at all levels of education are being denied in-person commencement ceremonies this spring. But the diplomas and degrees they will receive by mail this year are no less valid than those received in person by countless generations in pre-Covid times. And whether they don cap and gown or not, the symbols associated with graduations also apply as much as ever to this year’s awardees.

As with most symbolic articles and actions, there are varying explanations for the origins of academic regalia and graduation traditions.

Michael Cooper-White is president emeritus of Gettysburg (now United) Lutheran Seminary, where he conferred divinity degrees and delivered commencement addresses for seventeen years.

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