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Commencement records

 Record Group
Identifier: 3VC

Scope and Content

The Santa Clara University Commencement & Baccalaureate Mass Records, 1852-2009, document the university’s annual commencement ceremony, the Baccalaureate Mass, and undergraduate and graduate receptions. In addition to the traditional commencement ceremony, the Baccalaureate Mass is a celebration for students of all faiths, their families, and friends, and is a time to give thanks for the gifts given and received while at the university. The records consist of audiovisual materials, Baccalaureate Mass programs, ceremony events, commencement programs, commencement speaker’s speeches, event planning materials, instructions for officiating and speaking at the ceremonies, media releases, newspaper clippings, valedictorian speeches, and welcome speeches.


  • 1853 to present



The collection is open for research.

Organizational History

Santa Clara University was founded in 1851 by the Society of Jesus as Santa Clara College and is California’s oldest operating institution of higher learning. It was established on the grounds of Mission Santa Clara de Asìs, the eighth of the original 21 California missions. The college originally operated as a preparatory school and did not offer courses of collegiate rank until 1853. The institution became known as the University of Santa Clara in 1912, when the schools of engineering and law were added. For 110 years, Santa Clara University was an all-male school. In 1961, women were accepted as undergraduates and Santa Clara University became the first coeducational Catholic university in California. The number of students and faculty tripled over the next decade and the university began the largest building program in school history with eight residence halls, a student union, and an athletic stadium. In the early 1970s, the Board of Trustees voted to limit the size of the undergraduate population, an action that was intended to preserve the character and ensure the quality of the university for generations to come. In 1985, the university adopted Santa Clara University as its official name.

Santa Clara University held its first commencement ceremony in 1857, and awarded the first bachelor’s degree given in California to Thomas I. Bergin from San Francisco. According to The University of Santa Clara: A History, 1851-1977, commencement ceremonies at the university during this time period were “a two-day academic marathon, attracting full coverage in the San Francisco press and drawing large crowds of parents and spectators to campus. Scientific lectures and experiments, dramatic productions, and musical entertainment . . . were standard features on the program.” Today, Santa Clara University’s commencement ceremony and Baccalaureate Mass continue to honor graduates for their academic and intellectual achievements, as well as their commitment to the ideologies of competence, conscience, and compassion, which are fundamental to the university’s mission and the Jesuit philosophy of "educating the whole person."


Santa Clara University. “About SCU – History.” (Accessed Nov. 23, 2010)

McKevitt, Gerald, S.J. The University of Santa Clara: A History, 1851-1977. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1979.


4.3 linear feet (12 containers)

Language of Materials



The Santa Clara University Commencement Records, 1853-2009, document the university’s annual commencement ceremonies spanning a 157-year period. The records consist of audiovisual materials, programs, ceremony events, commencement programs, commencement speaker’s speeches, media releases, newspaper clippings, and programs. This collection is arranged into two series: Series I. Commencement Programs and Related Materials, 1852-2009; and Series II. Commencement Audiovisual Materials, 1976-2005.


This collection is arranged into three series: Commencement Programs and Related Materials, 1852 to present; Commencement Audiovisual Materials, 1976-2005.

Physical Location

This collection is stored in the Santa Clara University Department of Archives & Special Collections.


Annual accruals to this collection are expected.

Publication Rights

Materials in the Department of Archives & Special Collections may be subject to copyright. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the University Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Archives & Special Collections as the owner of the physical material, and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained. Copyright restrictions also apply to digital reproductions of the original materials.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Stacey Liong. Finding aid EAD encoded by Erin Louthen. Reviewed by Erin Louthen.

Guide to Santa Clara University commencement records
In Progress
Stacey Liong, Nadia Nasr
© 2011 Santa Clara University. All rights reserved.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Archives & Special Collections, Santa Clara University Library Repository

Santa Clara University Library
500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara California 95053-0500 USA US