Creative Graduation Ceremony

University of Miami geology department graduation ceremony circa 1979, led by Professors Emiliani, Nagle, and Stipp.

My father, Cesare Emiliani (Dott., Ph.D), was a long-time chair of the Geology department at the University of Miami in Coral Gables Florida. He was a creative, outgoing, and fun person who applied his gifts to how the department would graduate its students. It was a separate ceremony that took place in a department classroom a week or so before the university held its official graduation ceremony.

This peculiar graduation ceremony was no doubt invented in the campus bar (or a bar nearby such as Bill & Ted’s Tavern or Duffy’s Tavern), and took place from the mid-1970s through the 1980s. Below is the department graduation ceremony as recounted by a former geology student, Douglas Introne (edited slightly for clarity).

“The graduation ceremony was basically a roast of the student. They would show a slide show with pictures of the student that they had collected over the years from field trips, in the classroom, from The Rathskeller, or wherever, and they would make jest of him or her and basically just take the piss out of the student [from laughter]. Then each student would go up front to get his “Leghorn” — a Leghorn is an Italian Chicken — which was the straw cowboy hat with The U [logo] painted on the front and University of Miami graduation tassel pinned on top. The three professors, Emiliani, Stipp, and Nagle, would each punch, crush, step, stomp, etc., on it and mangle it, and then put it on your head. Then your old man (Prof. Emiliani) would move the tassel from one side of the hat to the other, and then you’d go back and shake each one of the three professors’ hands. Then the next kid came up. And that’s how you had graduated from the department.”

To roast each student, you had to get to know them pretty well. This familiarity came about not just through classroom interaction, but in geology field trips, while dining together, and (especially) while drinking beers together and discussing geological science.

There was a palpable respect for students, a collegial atmosphere between geology department faculty, staff, and students, a tremendous desire among the faculty for students to succeed in school and in their job after graduation. The department graduation ceremony evidences these special attributes of undergraduate studies in geology at the University of Miami during the time my father was department chair.

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