A Step into the Unknown Commencement at Tufts University


The United States entered World War I in 1941 and its effects were felt on the Tufts campus and in its Commencement ceremonies. An article in the June 18, 1940 Tufts Weekly, describing Commencement regalia, noted that "Somehow these traditional gowns, reaching down through the ages as they do, made us feel that there is a permanency and a cohesive quality to academic achievement that no totalitarian brutality can erase."

During the War the calendar changed as Tufts shifted to a year-round schedule in 1942, removing the traditional spring and summer breaks. Tufts was also transformed by the presence of the Navy training V-12 and NROTC programs on campus. Although the traditional annual Commencement ceremonies were still held in May or June, additional degree convocation ceremonies were incorporated into the new schedule. An October 13, 1943 Commencement ceremony included a Review of the Tufts Naval Training Unit and the presentation of certificates to members of the naval training unit completing their course. Music was provided by the Tufts Naval Training Unit Band. The presentation of certificates continued at subsequent degree convocation ceremonies throughout the war. The June 18, 1944 Commencement program notes that "As a result of war conditions, these Commencement Exercises constitute the fourth Degree Convocation at Tufts College since May, 1943." The university continued to hold multiple ceremonies until the war's end and continued to do so in the years directly following. The NROTC continued to be an important part of life at Tufts. At the 92nd Annual Tufts Commencement on June 20, 1948, an address was given by Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air John Nicholas Brown. Brown spoke about the importance of the Navy in peacetime and of the value of naval research, including several projects based at Tufts.

"The importance of the Navy in times of peace, however, does not lie entirely in the presence of planes and ships in foreign waters, nor in the ability to dispatch them there. Internally, the Navy appears to us not as an instrument of physical force, but as having to do with things of the mind. "

– Brown, John Nicholas. Address given at Tufts Commencement, 1948

To learn more about the Navy at Tufts, please visit the exhibit Tufts Answers the Call to Service: V-12 and NROTC at Tufts.