Welch Hall background

Academic Regalia

The colorful attire worn by the graduates, faculty, and officers of the university has been an integral feature of American commencement and academic pageantry since the end of the nineteenth century. The tradition of wearing the academic gowns, the mortarboard caps, tassels and hoods and the carrying of the mace originated in Europe during the Middle Ages.

The gown is held to be an adaptation of the robe of the friar or priest; the hood, the monk's cowl; and the mortarboard cap recalls the skull cap. All of the regalia dates back to the days when teachers needed protection against the drafts of unheated medieval classrooms. The presidential installation ceremony maintains much of the tradition and pageantry of the early times. The distinctive academic regalia worn at the ceremony denotes the wearer's institution, field of study, and degree held.


For each of the degree levels, bachelor's, master's and doctoral, the gown sleeves indicate the degree held by the wearer. The bachelor's gown is a yoked, closed-front garment with long, pointed sleeves. The master's can be worn open or closed and has long sleeves, usually closed but slit above the elbow. The doctoral gown has full, bell-shaped sleeves and is trimmed with velvet panels down the front and has velvet bars on each sleeve. The color of the panels and bars is often varied to indicate the academic discipline in which the doctoral degree was earned.

Mortarboard and Hood

The mortarboard cap in black is the accepted style of headdress in colleges and universities throughout the United States. The length and shape of the hood also indicate the highest degree earned by the wearer. Although hoods are available for all three degree levels, the hood for the bachelor is seldom used. The master's hood is three and a half feet long and the doctor's four feet with wide panels on either side. The color of the velvet border on any hood indicates the field of study in which the candidates have taken their degree, as outlined below.

Hood Color Chart
Field of StudyColors
Arts, Letters, HumanitiesWhite
Fine ArtsBrown
Physical EducationSage Green
ScienceGolden Yellow
Business AdministrationDrab
EducationLight Blue
PhilosophyDark Blue
Public AdministrationPeacock Blue
Social WorkCitron