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Convocation Traditions

Convocation is the most solemn ceremony within the university community. Your participation is part of a long standing tradition. Since their beginnings in the Middle Ages, universities have performed this ceremony in order to grant degrees to their students and also welcome those students into the community of scholars which has trained them.

The conferring of the degree is symbolized either by an acknowledgement or handshake from the chancellor, president or other conferring officers of the university.

As an outward sign of his or her new status, the student wears a hood. Each degree within a university has a hood of unique colours and trim in order that the student's status may be recognized; indeed, every university guards its own set of hoods from use by any other university.

Academic Degrees

The academic degree is a title conferred on an individual by a university as recognition of the completion of a course of study or for a certain attainment. In Canada, the three stages in higher education are represented by the degrees of bachelor, master, and doctor. Wilfrid Laurier University is given the authority to grant degrees by the Wilfrid Laurier University Act.

The bachelor's degree is awarded at the honours and general level. An honours degree program emphasizes the acquisition of a broad and deep knowledge of the student's chosen honours subject, including both skill at applying the subject and appreciation of its relation to general knowledge and society. A general degree program emphasizes a balance between an in-depth understanding of the student's major subject and a knowledge and appreciation of other fields. Completion of an honours degree normally takes four years and a general degree, three years.

The master's degree is the second degree in higher education. Students complete concentrated and specialized work at a more advanced level in an academic discipline or professional area. Most course work is within the field of specialization and a research project or thesis is normally required. Some master's degrees provide professional qualifications. The master's degree usually requires one or two years of study after a bachelor's degree.

The doctoral degree is the highest academic degree granted by a university. Candidates for the degree spend several years in the advanced study of a specialized field of knowledge. The capstone of the degree is the doctoral dissertation, an extended work based upon independent research. The dissertation demonstrates the candidate's command of both the subject matter and the exacting methods of scholarship, and makes an original contribution to knowledge.

Honorary Degrees

Honorary degrees are conferred by Wilfrid Laurier University in recognition of outstanding scholarly, creative, or professional achievement or distinguished public and community service. The university may grant the following honorary degrees: Doctor of Laws (LLD), Doctor of Letters (DLitt), Doctor of Science (DSc) and Doctor of Divinity (DDiv).

Honorary Degree Recipients

Honorary degrees are awarded honoris causa, “for the sake of honour,” and recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions locally, nationally and globally.

Wilfrid Laurier University Mace

The mace of Wilfrid Laurier University was officially presented by the Euler family at the 1963 fall convocation in memory of The Honourable W.D. Euler, former senator of Canada and the first chancellor of the university. It weighs 16 pounds and was manufactured by the firm of Henry Birks Limited, Montreal.

The ferrule near the base of the shaft contains ivory from a walrus tusk obtained from Coral Harbour, Northwest Territories. The ten-sided shaft, representing the ten provinces, merges into the head of the mace which bears the ten provincial crests. The wood used at the point where the shaft meets the head of the mace is elm taken from the bannister post of Conrad Hall, the original seminary building. Above this are four crests relating to the history of the institution: a crest of Waterloo County, the Luther Coat of Arms, the crest of the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary and the coat of arms of the University of Western Ontario.

The head of the mace is made of maple and bears the Federal Coat of Arms, above which is the monogram of Queen Elizabeth II, during whose reign the university's charter was granted. On the reverse side is the crest of Wilfrid Laurier University and the monogram of King George V, during whose reign the original charter was granted. The top of the mace is a crown, mounted with jewels, symbolizing the authority of the State.

Marshal's Baton

Dr. Fred Binding, a faculty member in the Department of Psychology for 32 years retired in July 2003. He had served as the university marshal for ten years. Sadly, Dr. Binding died in August 2003. In memory of his contribution to convocation ceremonies, artist Rex Lingwood was commissioned to create a marshal's baton.

In the baton, the artist incorporates a range of visual references that relate to the graduation ceremony, both directly and symbolically. In keeping with the nature of the ceremony, some of the forms are traditionally associated with ceremonial staffs, and the baton's design echoes the elaborate theatricality of the event and the flair brought to the occasion by Dr. Fred Binding. The ends may be read as abstracted figure forms wrapped in the academic gown and hood, with details symbolizing the life stage of the graduates. The Greek alphabet is inset into the internal side surface in the shaft of the baton. This is a reference to the interests of Dr. Fred Binding. It also acknowledges that language is at the core of university education and that the Greek language has particular importance in western culture.

The commission of the baton was made possible with the generous support of the Department of Psychology and Wilfrid Laurier's Univerisity Retirees' Association.