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Commencement Collection

Collection ID: RG 6-6E

Scope and Contents

This collection contains documents related to commencement at the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion College, and Old Dominion University. Contains commencement addresses, audio tapes of commencement ceremonies, and commencement ceremony programs. Digitized versions of commencement programs in PDF format are included for years spanning. The audiotapes of commencement ceremonies are in reel to reel format.


  • 1945-2023



3.20 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

Old Dominion University was founded in September 1930 as an extension campus of the College of William and Mary in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Established as a two year junior college known as the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary, the school’s mission was to provide educational opportunities to the people of Hampton Roads commensurate with those available near the commonwealth’s large university centers. The “Division” as it was known, opened its doors in the empty buildings of the old Larchmont Elementary School, offering a two year course of study allowing students the opportunity to earn either transferable credit through the sophomore year to any four year college throughout the United States or the appropriate professional training for careers not requiring baccalaureate degrees.  In 1931, courses in basic engineering and other technical studies were offered at the Norfolk Division through collective partnership with Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI), taught by instructors directly provided by VPI. Upon the completion of studies at the Division, many students seeking baccalaureate degrees continued their academic pursuits at either the Williamsburg campus of William and Mary or VPI in Blacksburg, though it was not uncommon for Norfolk Division students to attend other universities throughout the country as well. The official recognition of students successfully completing the Norfolk Division’s course of study did not occur until May 1943 when for the first time completion certificates were presented to eligible students during final convocation exercises that marked the end of the academic year. College convocation, while not directly associated with commencement, were mandatory assemblies of the student body conducted at the university in which special programs or speakers were presented with the intention of enhancing the academic experience and fostering a sense of community. The first formal commencement exercises conducted by the Norfolk Division took place in June 1945 at the new Larchmont School Auditorium where seventeen students were awarded Associate of Arts degrees. By 1956, the Norfolk Division awarded its first four year baccalaureate diplomas to fifteen eligible students. Commencement exercises between 1945 and 2002 have taken place in various locations throughout the city of Norfolk, both on campus and off such as the old Norfolk Arena, Foreman Field, and Norfolk Scope. Since December 2002, commencement exercises are conducted on campus at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. In 2009-2010, the University awarded 4,632 bachelors, masters and Ph.D. degrees.

Note written by Mel Frizzell

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

The collection is divided into three series: Series I: Commencement Addresses and Related Correspondence; Series II: Commencement Ceremony Programs; and Series III: Commencement Ceremoy Recordings.

Source of Acquisition

Office of University Events

Method of Acquisition

Various transfers.

Related Materials

Photographs of Commencement can be found in the Old Dominion University Photographic and Multimedia Collection (RG 32).

Processing Information

The collection was processed and finding aid created by Mel Frizzell, Special Collections Assistant, in 2011.

A Guide to the Commencement Collection
Mel Frizzell
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the ODU University Archives Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US