History of Commencement 

The University of South Florida’s first Commencement was in 1963, where 325 degrees were conferred. The first Honorary Doctoral 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:

September 26, 1960

  • First Honorary Degree presented to George R. Cooley during opening convocation of the university. The next Honorary Degree would not be presented until 1969.


  • First USF Commencement- 325 degrees conferred.

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 an Honorary Doctor of Law.

June 13, 1971

  • John Allen (USF’s first President) receives Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. His wife, Grace Allen would later receive a Doctor of Humane Letters on October 18, 1996.


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


  • President’s Fellow Medallion award created and presented in Fall to Jane Cook.

April 21, 1999

  • New academic mace is unveiled during a retiring faculty celebration event. Mace was designed by Harrison Covington.

February 23, 2000

  • USF Presidential regalia debuts with the inauguration of President Judy Genshaft. Her robe is the first institutional regalia for a USF President.


  • Regalia developed and introduced for Board of Trustee members.

December 13, 2003

  • 100th Honorary Degree from USF presented to Delia Sanchez, Doctor of Humanities.

May 7, 2005

  • First graduate ceremony held, just for Doctoral, Educational Specialists, and Masters students. 485 graduates attend. Special program printed for graduate ceremony.

May 6, 2006

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

December 16, 2006

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

May 3, 2007

  • Institutional regalia for Campus Executive Officers/Vice Presidents over autonomous programs debuts with Stephen Klasko, College of Medicine Commencement. At this time, only the College of Medicine VP and Regional Chancellor of USF St. Petersburg have the regalia.

December 15, 2007

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

December 13, 2009

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

August 6, 2011

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

May 1, 2015

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

Commencement Programs