Tassel Talk 2007
Convocation is a wonderful rite of passage ceremony — poignant and positive. But how did all the tradition come to be?
The wearing of robes dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries. At that time, scholars made certain vows so it is logical they would take dress direction from clerics. Today, institutions have adopted different coloured robes. Pat Roome, Mount Royal’s director of centennial archives, says the blue robes MRC graduates wear started in the late ’60s or early ’70s.
However, the sea of Mount Royal blue was peppered with other gown colours because faculty members wear the gown of the university where they conferred. If they did not purchase their gown, which can be pricey, the standard black is rented for them. Numerous Mount Royal faculty have their own gowns. “They stand out because they are usually gorgeous and different colours,” says Roome.
Mount Royal students walking across the stage at Convocation sported one of three hoods.
- Applied Degrees: rounded hoods that are blue, black and gold, with red trim.
- Diploma and Certificates: black velvet that is square along the bottom and a blue ‘V’ with a white inset.
- Athabasca University transfer: inspired by university style, the black hood is square with a point. The trim is blue for Nursing and pink for Arts.
While different faculties are not distinguished by colour at Mount Royal, faculty had different coloured hoods, determined by their discipline.
There is debate as to the origins of the cap style. The square cap we know today is said to have started in the 16th century and some say the shape was inspired by books. And like a cowboy hat, it should be worn horizontally. Traditionally the cap’s tassel is hung on the left side — above the heart. In recent years, President Dave Marshall has flipped each grad’s tassel from the right side to the left. This year, a mass tassel flip is planned for the end of the ceremony.
Music has played a large part of Mount Royal’s Convocation from day one. “The music we’ve performed is one of our striking features,” says Roome. The Conservatory has played a huge role in this, but in the days when Mount Royal’s Convocations were in a church, organs were also key.
Roome has organized two special displays for Convocation. The EA building hosts a display cabinet celebrating 96 years of Convocation, including photos, programs, gowns, class rings from the ’20s and a silver medal. Another display, at the entrance of the Wyatt Recital Hall, honours Mount Royal’s first three principles.
With the announcement earlier this year that Mount Royal will begin granting its own degrees — Bachelor of Nursing begins this fall — a new hood will likely be designed. “There is stuff we don’t have which would be nice, for example most universities have the president or chancellor carry in a ceremonial mace,” says Roome. “It might be a fun thing to have one designed when we become a university.”