Commencement Traditions

Tree Seedling

2008 WWC grad with seedling

After a period of learning beneath the trees of Warren Wilson College, commencement marks the next chapter in each graduate’s journey. The tree seedling, a sapling, received with each degree represents this new beginning. Just as each graduate leaves the College to go, lay down roots, and grow, the graduate is encouraged to plant this tree seedling away from campus to represent their mark as a Warren Wilson graduate in the greater world.


The College Tartan

President Pfeiffer with tartan

Warren Wilson’s tartan was designed by Sharon Fullerton Grist ’77 in commemoration of the College’s centennial in 1994. Blue and gold are the school’s colors. The three bands of maroon represent the Triad of academics, work, and service; their color signifying the College’s spiritual traditions and Presbyterian heritage. Gray represents the rock upon which the campus was built and green reflects the valley, forest and surrounding mountains. At Commencement, the President wears the tartan and the table holding graduates’ degrees has a tartan cloth. The College’s tartan is registered officially with the Scottish Registry of Tartans.


The College Seal

WWC College Seal

Designed by a student in the early 1960’s, the graphics of the seal represent the three aspects of the Triad: the books represent academics, the hammer represents work, and the dove represents the spirit of service. At Commencement, the President wears a medallion bearing the seal.


The College Mace

WWC Mace

In academic tradition, the mace represents the authority of the college President and is carried at the head of academic processions by the Chief Marshall, typically the current Dean of the College. The Warren Wilson mace was commissioned in 1978 by College President Reuben Holden and created by Swannanoa artist Dirck Cruser. Carved of walnut, the mace bears the symbols of the College: the mountains, the valley, the river, the owl, and the spade. The distinctive curves and carving also form two w’s for “Warren Wilson.”


Academic Regalia

Through the Triad, faculty, staff, and volunteers all play a role in the Warren Wilson educational experience. Thus, it is a tradition for faculty, staff, and volunteers to wear regalia from their respective alma maters at Commencement. The academic gown represents the degree that person holds (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral) and is usually black. Hoods are worn by master’s and doctoral degree holders that represent the major of study and the school colors of the institution where that degree was earned. Mortarboards are the traditional academic cap, although, doctoral and/or foreign degree holders can wear a soft cap. Tassels may be black or gold for doctoral degree holders. Other sashes, medals, and pins may be worn depending on awards received, academic field of study, and student custom.