The University of South Florida’s first Commencement was in 1963, where 325 degrees were conferred. The first honorary doctorate degree was actually presented years earlier, on September 26, 1960 during the opening convocation of the university. 

The following is a timeline of USF Commencement throughout the years: 

  1. 1960s

    1. First Honorary Doctorate Presented

      September 26, 1960

      First honorary doctorate presented to George R. Cooley during opening convocation of the university as a Doctor of Science.

    2. First USF Commencement


      First USF Commencement. A total of 325 degrees were conferred.

  2. 1970s

    1. First Woman to Receive USF Honorary Degree

      June 14, 1970

      Edith Green, former member of the Florida House of Representatives, is the first woman to receive an honorary degree from USF. She received a Doctor of Laws degree.

    2. John Allen Receives Honorary Doctorate

      June 13, 1971

      USF’s founding president John Allen receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters after his tenure from 1957 to 1970. His wife, Grace Allen would later receive a Doctor of Humane Letters on October 18, 1996.

    3. Distinguished Citizen Award Created


      President’s Distinguished Citizen award created and awarded that year to Tommy Howard and Terrell Sessums.

  3. 1980s

    1. Fellow Medallion Award Created


      President’s Fellow Medallion award created and awarded to Jane Cook.

  4. 1990s

    1. New Academic Mace Unveiled

      April 21, 1999

      A new academic mace, designed by Harrison Covington, is unveiled during a retiring faculty celebration event.

  5. 2000s

    1. First Institutional Regalia for USF President

      February 23, 2000

      Presidential regalia debuts with the inauguration of the university’s sixth president, Judy Genshaft. Her robe is the first institutional regalia for a USF president.

    2. Regalia Introduced for Board of Trustees


      Regalia developed and introduced for Board of Trustees members.

    3. University’s 100th Honorary Degree Presented

      December 13, 2003

      The university’s 100th honorary degree is presented to Delia Sanchez, who received a Doctor of Humanities.

    4. First Graduate Student Commencement

      May 7, 2005

      The first Commencement is held specifically for graduate students (doctorates, educational specialists, and master’s students) with 485 students in attendance.

    5. Institutional Doctoral Regalia Debuted

      May 6, 2006

      During 50th anniversary celebration, university debuts institutional doctoral regalia and the new President’s Chain of Office, worn by President Judy Genshaft and engraved with the names of USF’s former presidents.

    6. Inaugural Global Leadership Award Presented

      December 16, 2006

      Inaugural President’s Global Leadership award presented to Nava Ben-Zvi, president of Hadassa College, Israel.

    7. Regalia for Senior Leadership Debuts

      May 3, 2007

      Institutional regalia for senior leadership debuts with USF Health CEO Stephen Klasko for the College of Medicine Commencement. At this time, only Klasko and the regional chancellor of USF St. Petersburg have the regalia. 

    8. Regalia Introduced for Alumni Association

      December 15, 2007

      Institutional regalia is introduced for the Alumni Association representative to attend Commencement, first worn by Michele Norris, Alumni Association President-Elect.

    9. Sarasota-Manatee Institutional Regalia Debuts

      December 13, 2009

      USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Arthur Guilford debuts institutional regalia at their ceremony, after being named their first regional chancellor.

  6. 2010s

    1. First USF System Commencement Held

      August 6, 2011

      First USF System Commencement is held, where graduates from each USF institution were recognized separately.

    2. USF Celebrates First ‘Green’ Commencement

      May 1, 2015

      USF celebrates its first ‘green’ Commencement thanks to new environmentally friendly regalia.

    3. Judy Genshaft Attends Her Final Commencement

      May 2019

      President Judy Genshaft attends her final Commencement ceremonies before retiring and ending her historic 19-year tenure at the university. She is presented by the Board of Trustees with a special medallion in recognition of her service to the university and its students.

  7. 2020s

    1. University Holds First Virtual Commencement

      May 9, 2020

      The university holds its first ever Virtual Commencement as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Each USF System institution has its own ceremony featuring President Currall, the regional chancellors and student body presidents.

    2. One USF Holds First Commencement

      August 8, 2020

      The newly consolidated One USF holds its first Commencement as one singly accredited institution. The ceremony is held virtually and divided by college, featuring remarks from the dean and the reading of each graduate’s name.

    3. USF Returns to In-Person Commencement

      May 8, 2021

      USF returns to an in-person Commencement, following the COVID-19 pandemic and hosts two, socially distanced, ONEUSF ceremonies at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team in St. Petersburg.

    4. USF Returns to Traditional Commencement

      August 21-22, 2021

      USF returns to traditional Commencement ceremonies at the Yuengling Center and Interim President Rhea Law presides. All 2020 graduates are invited to participate.

    5. USFSP and USFSM Host Graduation Ceremonies

      December 2021

      St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses host their graduation celebrations; SAILebration and Grad Walk, respectively. 

    6. USF Hosts First Doctoral Only Ceremony

      May 8, 2022

      USF hosts its first, Doctoral only ceremony and President Law presides.

    7. Commencement Regalia Redesigned

      Fall 2023

      Commencement regalia is redesigned and transitions to a rented gown.