The ceremonial awarding of degrees—commencement—is Illinois State’s oldest tradition. The first event was in 1860 at Old Main. As the graduating class grew, the ceremony was moved to Horton Field House, Braden Auditorium and Redbird Arena. Only Braden and the arena are used today for ceremonies held in December and May.
Commencement was a one-day event until 1982, when increasing enrollment forced the ceremonies to be spread over two days and divided by college. Today there are on average 5,000 graduates annually. Unlike many large institutions, Illinois State’s commencement typically does not include a featured speaker. Tradition holds that commemorating and celebrating the accomplishments of each individual student is the ceremony’s primary purpose. Every graduate has his or her name called individually and is given the opportunity to cross the stage to receive congratulations and recognition.