May 18, 2004

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Contact: Andrea Albright, University Relations, (785) 864-8860.

'Walk down Hill' will mark KU graduation for more than 4,000 May 23

LAWRENCE -- About 4,000 of the more than 6,400 members of the University of Kansas Class of 2004 will make the traditional walk down Campanile Hill during KU's 132nd commencement exercises Sunday, May 23, in Lawrence.

The graduates will make the long-awaited march down Mount Oread and into Memorial Stadium, a tradition at KU since 1907, at 2:30 p.m. Chancellor Robert E. Hemenway will offer remarks and confer degrees beginning at about 3:30 p.m. Graduates will assemble along Memorial Drive at 2 p.m. The consumption of alcohol and cereal malt beverages on university property is strictly prohibited.

This year's graduating class includes about 4,300 spring graduates, more than 1,350 who graduated at the end of the fall 2003 semester and more than 740 who completed coursework over summer 2003.

The traditional "walk down the Hill" began when faculty and graduates walked from old Fraser Hall to the then-new Robinson Gymnasium, where Wescoe Hall is now located. The commencement procession moved in 1924 when Memorial Stadium was completed.

Those in attendance at Memorial Stadium will be able to watch a video presentation, the procession and the ceremony on the stadium's 24-by-32-foot video screen. The video presentation will begin at about 1:30 p.m.

The commencement ceremony will be simulcast in Woodruff Auditorium on the fifth level of the Kansas Union. The simulcast is provided specifically for people for whom the physical conditions in Memorial Stadium would be a barrier to their attendance at commencement. Sign language interpreters will be available in the bowl of the stadium. Reserved seating also will be available for people who need special assistance, including people in wheelchairs.

A live broadcast of the commencement ceremony will be produced courtesy of Rock Chalk Video and presented by the university television station, KUJH-TV, which broadcasts on channel 14 and on Sunflower Cablevision channel 32 in Lawrence. The full ceremony will air again at 7 p.m. May 24 and 25. In addition, commencement may be viewed via the Internet at Videotape of the ceremony may be purchased for $15 at

Commencement information and an up-to-date schedule of events are available online at The KU Information Center is open seven days a week to answer questions about KU and Lawrence and to help handle problems. For assistance, call the center at (785) 864-3506 or e-mail

If it rains the morning of commencement, an announcement will be made at 1 p.m. about arrangements for a postponed ceremony. Announcements will be made through the KU Information Center, (785) 864-3506, and radio stations, including KANU 91.5-FM, KLZR 105.9-FM, KJHK 90.7-FM, KFKF 94.1-FM, KMBZ 980-AM, WIBW 580-AM, WDAF 610-AM and KLWN 1320-AM, as well as Sunflower Cablevision Channel 6.

If the weather begins to clear in early afternoon, the first attempt to hold a postponed ceremony will be at 4:30 p.m. Graduates will assemble on Memorial Drive at 4 p.m. If the weather does not begin to clear in time for a 4:30 p.m. ceremony, a second attempt will be made at 6:30 p.m. Graduates will assemble on Memorial Drive at 6 p.m.

If it is still raining, the ceremony will be postponed until Monday, May 24, when graduates will line up at 8:30 a.m. for a 9 a.m. procession.

KU commencement history

 • University opens: 1866.
 • First commencement: June 11, 1873.
 • Number of graduates: Four (three men, one woman).
 • Ceremonies (which lasted several days): baccalaureate sermon, class day, commencement procession into the chapel of University Hall, commencement oration, banquet, conferring of degrees.
 • First high jinks at commencement: June 1873. Students reportedly lowered a skeleton from the ceiling and made it appear to dance while the band played at one of the ceremonies.
 • KU confers more than 100 degrees at commencement: 1893. Total degrees that year: 119.
 • Students first wear caps and gowns: about 1897.
 • Commencement in a tent: 1923. Because no campus building could accommodate all the guests, KU held commencement in a tent seating 3,400.
 • First march down the Hill: 1924. Graduates marched down the Hill to Memorial Stadium, where commencement ceremonies occurred. The practice continues.
 • Gum chewing discouraged: 1929. The student newspaper reported that the senior women's committee "makes urgent the request that the senior women, at least, refrain from gum chewing while they are dressed in the official costume of the university's graduating class."
 • Rain drives commencement indoors: 1938.
 • Commencement program cut to two days: 1943. The Graduate Magazine reported that "the rationing of tires and gas and the conditions of travel on train and bus were not conducive to travel, but surprising numbers attended the various events."
 • Commencement indoors because of rain: 1943
 • Total KU graduates reaches 30,000: 1950, when number of graduates since the first commencement was 30,077.
 • Memorial Campanile dedicated in 1951; however, in 1950 the Graduate Magazine reported that "the graduating class marched through the base of the campanile by dint of some removal of scaffolding and other debris around the tower. As the custom for graduating classes to pass through the base of the memorial bell tower carries on through the years, the class of '50 doubtless will take pride that it was the first to observe the rite."
 • Rain drives commencement indoors: 1972.
 • Streakers interrupt commencement: 1974. Just as Chancellor Archie Dykes finished his speech, two male college students streaked past the platform and raced the length of the football field. They were apprehended by university police.
 • Total KU graduates reaches 100,000: 1979, when number of graduates since the first commencement was 103,614.
 • Commencement indoors due to rain: 1981
 • Total KU graduates reaches 200,000: 1995, when number of graduates since the first commencement was 200,792.
 • The new 24-by-32-foot video screen, in the middle of Memorial Stadium's new 60-foot-tall scoreboard, becomes part of the commencement tradition: 2000, when spectators in the stadium watched the procession on the screen. In 2001, the university presented historical clips and other information about commencement.


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