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The Archivist's Angle:
Commencement Through the Years

By Nancy Cricco (SCPS ’86, GSAS ’92)
Commencement at the University Heights Campus in the Bronx in 1934.
, University Archivist

NYU’s first public graduation ceremony took place on July 17, 1834, just two years after the University opened. At this time, NYU was called the University of the City of New-York, its classrooms were in Clinton Hall, located at the corner of Beekman and Nassau Streets, and Commencement was held in nearby churches. In 1835, when NYU had completed its own University Building on Washington Square East (the present site of the Silver Center), Commencement was moved to Washington Square.

From the mid to late 1800s, Commencement was held off campus at such places as the Astor Opera House, near the University; Niblo’s Garden at Broadway and Prince Street; the Metropolitan Opera House; and Carnegie Hall.

NYU graduates at Commencement in Madison Square Garden in 1972.

Between 1900 and 1969, Commencement took place at NYU’s University Heights campus in the Bronx. At first, exercises were held inside the auditorium of the Gould Memorial Library. Graduation ceremonies moved outdoors in the 1920s, when they were held near the Hall of Fame, adjacent to the Gould Library. From 1932 until the late 1960s, Commencement took place on Ohio Field. In 1969, Commencement was held in Madison Square Garden, and two years later, in Radio City Music Hall.

In 1976, Commencement returned to the site of its early days at the square, this time for an outdoor ceremony in the park. This lasted until 2007. Today, Commencement is held at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, where NYU’s 178th Commencement took place on May 12, 2010.

For more photos of Commencement through the years (1922-2010), click here.
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