History of Convocation


In June of 1950 Memorial University held its first convocation, which was a fairly simple affair.

Led by engineering professor Dr. Jack Facey (who would later perform the role of convocation marshal for 46 years), the students and faculty moved from the Parade Street campus across to St. Patrick’s Hall School for the conferring of undergraduate degrees.

The university presented its first graduate degrees in May 1956 and its first honorary degree in May 1960.

First Honorary Degree

The ceremony for that first honorary degree, presented to Monnie Mansfield who had been Memorial’s registrar for 30 years, served as a dress rehearsal for the most elaborate convocation the university has ever held — for the opening of the Elizabeth Avenue campus in October 1961.

Overseeing the arrangements were Dr. Facey as the marshal of convocation, responsible for the organization, direction and decorum of the occasion, and Dr. G.M. Story as the public orator, responsible for the delivery of the orations about the honorary graduands, a special feature of Memorial’s convocations.

Nineteen honorary degrees were conferred on a galaxy of dignitaries local, national and international. That day the public orator and his deputy each had to deliver as many as ten orations, each a concise but rhetorically lively account of the rationale for conferring the degree.

From 1961 to 1968 convocation was held in the gymnasium of the Physical Education Building. With the opening of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, Memorial in effect acquired a new convocation hall, which became the regular site of the ceremonies after 1970.

Designed partially on the ideas of then-Premier Joseph Smallwood, the back of the stage with its descending staircase was developed specifically for Memorial’s convocation.

Fall convocation was inaugurated in 1970 to accommodate increasing numbers of graduates and to support the three-semester academic calendar. In May 1992, 23 graduates received degrees in the first regular session of convocation held at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, now Grenfell Campus, Memorial University.


The ceremonial trappings of convocation began to be developed in the early 1960s. Our academic robes are based on those of Oxford University. The silver mace – the symbol of the university’s authority and the presence of which signals the official opening of convocation – and the marshals’ staves were donated by Chancellor Lord Thomson in 1961.

The chancellor’s chair and a lectern were presented in 1963 by Lieutenant Governor Campbell Macpherson.

Other complementary birch wood furniture pieces were subsequently commissioned from the St. John’s firm of Clarmanis and Son Ltd.. The chairs bear the university’s coat of arms, hand carved and painted bas-relief. The signing table, a gift of the former marshal Dr. Facey, was added in 1996.

Academic Dress

The academic dress for matriculated undergraduates of the University shall be similar to the Scholar's gown of the University of Oxford. It shall be worn whenever the President so directs.

The gowns of the Bachelors shall be of black stuff. The gowns of the Masters shall be of black stuff or silk. The gowns of the Doctors shall be of fine scarlet cloth or silk, or of black stuff or silk.

The pattern of the Bachelor's gown shall be similar to that of the Oxford Bachelor's gown. The pattern of the Master's gown and the Doctor's black gown shall be similar to that of the Oxford Master's gown, except that the Doctor's gown shall have an edging of black silk braid at the opening of the sleeve. The Doctor's scarlet gown shall be similar to that of the Oxford Doctor of Divinity's gown.

The hoods of the Bachelors shall be made of black stuff, the hoods of the Masters of black silk, and the hoods of the Doctors of scarlet silk. They shall be full in shape and lined with the University colours of claret and white. The hoods of the Bachelors shall be trimmed with white fur, the tippets with velvet in the colours distinctive of the Faculty or Degree. The hoods and tippets of the Masters shall be edged with velvet in the colours distinctive of the Faculty or Degree. The hoods and tippets of the Doctors shall be edged with silk in the colours distinctive of the Faculty or Degree; however, the hood of the Doctor of Philosophy shall be of claret silk, lined and edged with claret silk.

The University hood, worn by official representatives of Memorial University of Newfoundland participating in ceremonies, shall be made of black stuff, and lined and edged with claret and white silk.

The distinctive colours for the degrees shall be:

  • BA, BA(Hons.), IBA, MA, MGS - WHITE

  • BBA, BBA(Hons.), B.Comm., B.Comm.(Co-op.), B.Comm.(Hons.)(Co-op.), IBBA, IBBA(Hons.), MBA, MBA(SEE), MScM - TAN

  • B.Ed., B.Ed.(Intermediate/Secondary), B.Ed.(Post-secondary), B.Ed.(Primary/Elementary), B.Mus.Ed., B.Sp.Ed., M.Ed. - LIGHT BLUE

  • B.Eng., M.Eng. - ORANGE

  • BFA(Theatre), BFA(Visual Arts), MFA - AMETHYST

  • B.Kin., B.Kin.(Co-op.), B.Kin.(Hons.), B.Kin.(Co-op.)(Hons.), BPE, BPE(Hons.), B.Rec., B.Rec.(Hons.), BHKR(Co-op.), BHKR(Co-op.)(Hons.), MPE, M.Sc.(Kin.) - SAGE GREEN

  • BMS, B.Tech., MAOT, MMS, MTM, MMM, M.Sc.(Maritime Studies), M.Sc.(Fisheries Science) - NAVY BLUE

  • B.Mus., B.Mus.(Hons.), M.Mus. - PINK

  • BScN, MN - CORAL


  • B.Sc., MAS, M.A.Sc., M.Env.Sc., M.Sc., M.Sc.(B.E.A.Sc.), MAPS(Co-op.) - GOLD

  • B.Sc.(Pharmacy), PharmD, M.Sc.(Pharmacy) - CLOVER


  • MD, MPH, M.Sc.(Medicine), MHE - GREEN


  • M.Phil., PsyD, PhD - CLARET

The caps of Bachelors and Masters shall be black and of the square shape, with black tassel. The caps of the Doctors shall be similar to the Oxford Doctor's bonnet.

The academic dress for the Officers of the University shall be as follows:

Chancellor - a silk gown heavily embroidered with gold braid

Vice-chancellor - a silk gown embroidered with gold braid

Pro vice-chancellor - a silk gown embroidered with gold braid

Registrar and other Officers of the University - gowns of a pattern approved by Senate

Convocation Furniture

In 2002, plans were made to create a second convocation furniture suite so that a complete set would permanently reside at each of the St. John’s and Corner Brook campuses.

The design of the new suite, intended to reflect the culture and traditions of the province, was undertaken by retired Memorial University graphic designer Ian Stewart. Paterson Woodworking of Upper Amherst Cove was commissioned to construct the set.

The first piece in this suite, a black walnut convocation table with a fish-splitting table motif, was presented by Lieutenant Governor Edward Roberts in 2003.

The kneeler was donated in 2005 by honorary graduate Alan Perry. Hon. Dr. Roberts and his brother Douglas Roberts sponsored the signing table and bench, completed in 2005, as well as the chancellor’s chair and the four companion chairs, which were completed in 2006. They also donated the two speaker’s lecterns, which were completed in 2007.

The Roberts’ contributions to the suite of furniture were undertaken in memory of their father, Dr. Harry D. Roberts, a graduate of Memorial University College (’31), an honorary graduate of Memorial University and for many years a member of the Board of Regents.

Many hands make light work

The convocation ceremonies at the university have always been supported by a team of dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to make this the most enjoyable event for our graduands and their families. To learn some more about the behind the scenes work, please visit here