History of Commencement 

The University of South Florida’s first Commencement was in 1963, where 325 degrees were conferred. The first honorary doctorate degree was actually presented years earlier, on September 26, 1960 during the opening convocation of the university. 

The following is a timeline of USF Commencement throughout the years: 

September 26, 1960

  • First honorary doctorate presented to George R. Cooley during opening convocation of the university as a Doctor of Science.


  • First USF Commencement. A total of 325 degrees were conferred.

June 14, 1970

  • Edith Green, former member of the Florida House of Representatives, is the first woman to receive an honorary degree from USF. She received a Doctor of Laws degree.

June 13, 1971

  • USF’s founding president John Allen receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters after his tenure from 1957 to 1970. His wife, Grace Allen would later receive a Doctor of Humane Letters on October 18, 1996.


  • President’s Distinguished Citizen award created and awarded that year to Tommy Howard and Terrell Sessums.


  • President’s Fellow Medallion award created and awarded to Jane Cook.

April 21, 1999

  • A new academic mace, designed by Harrison Covington, is unveiled during a retiring faculty celebration event.

February 23, 2000

  • Presidential regalia debuts with the inauguration of the university’s sixth president, Judy Genshaft. Her robe is the first institutional regalia for a USF president.


  • Regalia developed and introduced for Board of Trustees members.

December 13, 2003

  • The university’s 100th honorary degree is presented to Delia Sanchez, who received a Doctor of Humanities.

May 7, 2005

  • The first Commencement is held specifically for graduate students (doctorates, educational specialists, and master’s students) with 485 students in attendance.

May 6, 2006

  • During 50th anniversary celebration, university debuts institutional doctoral regalia and the new President’s Chain of Office, worn by President Judy Genshaft and engraved with the names of USF’s former presidents.

December 16, 2006

  • Inaugural President’s Global Leadership award presented to Nava Ben-Zvi, president of Hadassa College, Israel.

May 3, 2007

  • Institutional regalia for senior leadership debuts with USF Health CEO Stephen Klasko for the College of Medicine Commencement. At this time, only Klasko and the regional chancellor of USF St. Petersburg have the regalia. 

December 15, 2007

  • Institutional regalia is introduced for the Alumni Association representative to attend Commencement, first worn by Michele Norris, Alumni Association President-Elect.

December 13, 2009

  • USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Arthur Guilford debuts institutional regalia at their ceremony, after being named their first regional chancellor.

August 6, 2011

  • First USF System Commencement is held, where graduates from each USF institution were recognized separately.

May 1, 2015

  • USF celebrates its first ‘green’ Commencement thanks to new environmentally friendly regalia.

May 2019

  • President Judy Genshaft attends her final Commencement ceremonies before retiring and ending her historic 19-year tenure at the university. She is presented by the Board of Trustees with a special medallion in recognition of her service to the university and its students.

August 3, 2019

  • USF’s seventh president Steven C. Currall presides over his first Commencement.

May 9, 2020

  • The university holds its first ever Virtual Commencement as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Each USF System institution has its own ceremony featuring President Currall, the regional chancellors and student body presidents.

August 8, 2020

  • The newly consolidated One USF holds its first Commencement as one singly accredited institution. The ceremony is held virtually and divided by college, featuring remarks from the dean and the reading of each graduate’s name.