In a few short weeks Kimball Union will, with much joy and pride, celebrate its two-hundred and second Commencement with the Class of 2018, their family, and friends. The faculty and staff will also celebrate this major highlight of the school year with you. In Archives, we are able to follow the many Commencement traditions that began long ago through our photographic collection. Below are just a few of them, along with a little Commencement history.

According to KUA’s second General Catalogue 1813-1930, the first building was dedicated January 9, 1815, and “the first class of seven pupils assembled the next morning.” Of these seven students, six are listed in the catalogue under the class of 1816, the first class to graduate. Girls’ names do not appear in this catalogue until the early 1840s, after the Female Department was established. However, going back to the first General Catalogue 1816-1880, we learn that Kimball Union was already coeducational, as four female students are listed starting with the class of 1816, but without graduation status until the early 1840s. An interesting fact, one 1816 graduate, Weston Bela Adams, married one of his classmates, Harriet Wines, probably the first romance in the Academy’s history, thus proving again that Kimball Union truly began as a coeducational school.

Above: This 1826 graduation program is the oldest one in our Archives Collection. You can see that only men took part in the “Exhibition” even though the first catalogue lists 13 women in the class of 1826. The Valedictorian that year, Asa Dodge Smith, later served as President of Dartmouth College from 1863 to 1877.

Above: The senior class makes its way to the Stone Church for one of the many ceremonies of Commencement Week in 1880. This photograph comes from an 1880 post card collection of “Views of Meriden.”

Above: The class of 1882 had their class photograph taken on the steps of the Third Academy. The building was destroyed by fire in 1891; Baxter Hall was built on the same site in 1892.

This charming photograph, c. 1910, of Headmaster Tracy with one of his young sons, was taken while he greeted families gathered outside the Stone Church at Commencement.

This photograph is from a glass slide, c. 1920, taken at a Commencement held at the Merrill Amphitheatre on Chellis Road, now the site of the Outdoor Classroom. The Class of 1920 endowed a prize that has been given every year at Graduation since 1928. The original prize was $5.00.

Commencement in 1937 also took place in the Merrill Amphitheatre, with the Potato Patch in the background. The podium, a gift of the Class of 1902, is still used today in the theatre and at Commencements, which are now held on the Quad.

For many years, Commencement was held in Alumni Gym. Here, Headmaster Mikula presents an Award in 1982.


Since the early 1990s, Commencement has been held on the Quad.

                 Congratulations to the Class of 2018!