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May 24, 2019 | Campus

Check out these archival photos from 150 years of U of T convocations

By David Lee and Geoffrey Vendeville

In June 1926, hundreds of people in formal clothes and hats chat in groups on a lawn by a tent and trees.

A garden party for convocation in June 1926 (courtesy of University of Toronto Archives)

In just a couple of weeks, the University of Toronto's front campus will be crowded with people hugging, high-fiving and snapping selfies to celebrate convocation. They will be continuing a long tradition enjoyed by countless students and their families as they mark a significant milestone.

U of T photo/video coordinator David Lee and archivist Marnee Gamble dug up some special moments caught on film between 1870 and 2000. Some of the photos are clearly of their time, but if they weren't in black and white, others look like they could have been taken just last year. 

Here’s a few snapshots of U of T convocations past:

Eight men in three-piece suits and 1870s hairstyles lounge around a cloth-draped table.
(courtesy of University of Toronto Archives)

U of T has been training medical doctors since 1843. Much more than the fashions have changed since 1870-1871, when this graduating class of what was then known as the Toronto School of Medicine posed for a picture. 

The graduates above are, from left to right, G.W. Jackes (BScMed 1872, MD 1888), S.R. Richardson, J. Donaldson, W.M. Forrest, G.H. Cowan, C.Y. Moore, R.H. De La Matter (BA 1968 UC, BScMed 1971), and A. Taylor

A man wearing a turban with large cockade walks in a procession with several older men in academic robes.
(courtesy of University of Toronto Archives)

An unidentified man wearing a turban walks past the ivy-covered walls of Convocation Hall before a graduation ceremony in 1938.

Six young men in academic robes, all looking in different directions, stand on Front Campus.
(courtesy of Herb Nott & Co. Ltd./University of Toronto Archives)

A group of graduands gather on the front campus just before convocation in 1960. The Sigmund Samuel Library behind them (now the Gerstein Science Information Centre) was the main library on campus until Robarts was built in the 1970s. 

Edward and Jay Keystone, in academic robes, smile and hold their graduation certificates while flanked by two women.
(courtesy of Robert Lansdale/University of Toronto Archives)

Twins Edward and Jay Keystone (both BSc 1965 UC, MD 1969) (centre), after receiving their medical degrees at the 1969 convocation. Both went on to become professors at U of T. Edward is a rheumatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and the director of the Rebecca MacDonald Centre for Arthritis and Autoimmune Disease.

Jay is a staff physician on the Tropical Disease Unit at the University Health Network and a renowned expert in infectious diseases. He's done field work in Africa, India and South America, and he was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2015. 

“Hard to believe we got through medical school!” Edward joked in an email to U of T News. 

Aston Foreman smiles down at the paper that Eleanor Phillips is holding. She is wearing academic robes.
(courtesy of Robert Lansdale/University of Toronto Archives)

Eleanor Phillips (BA 1970) shows the acting high commissioner for Jamaica, R. Aston Foreman, her B.A., which had just been conferred at a June 1970 convocation. Phillips is the daughter of Rowland Phillips, the first chief justice of Jamaica post-independence. Because they couldn't attend their daughter's convocation, her parents were represented by Foreman and Danny Powell, resident manager in Canada of the Jamaica Development Bank.

A mirror propped on a blackboard reflects two smiling women, one of whom holds her hand to her mortarboard hat.
(courtesy of Robert Lansdale/University of Toronto Archives)

An unnamed graduand adjusts her mortarboard before the traditional procession from University College to Convocation Hall in 1970. 

Students in academic robes stand around the edges of a high-ceilinged room and watch a man who is calling out instructions.
(photo courtesy of Robert Lansdale/University of Toronto Archives)

A convocation marshal addresses graduates in University College's West Hall in June 1971. The role of convocation marshal still exists today – and it's no easy task. “We need to keep the graduates manageable and happy at the same time,” marshal Paul Babiak (BA 1995 TRIN, MA 2005, PhD 2015) told U of T News in 2016

A large crowd of students and families, wearing 1990 fashions with permed hair, chat and hug on Front Campus.
(courtesy of Homa Fanian/University of Toronto Archives)

In June 1990, when the likes of Madonna, Roxette and New Kids on the Block topped the Billboard charts, graduates and their guests gathered on front campus for celebratory hugs and pictures.

Clare Stephenson, holding her cane and wearing a big hat, smiles in front of the door to Woodsworth College.
(courtesy of Homa Fanian/University of Toronto Archives)

Claire Stephenson (BA 1995 WDW), 87, stands for a portrait outside Woodsworth College before convocation in 1995. She completed a B.A. in the spring. 

A student turns in her seat in Convocation Hall to laugh with another student standing behind her.
(courtesy of Susan King/University of Toronto Archives)

Two graduands share a laugh inside Convocation Hall in 1997. 

A line of students in academic gowns stretches across Front Campus.
(courtesy of Susan King/University of Toronto Archives)

The first graduating class of the new millennium, in June 2000, enter Convocation Hall.