We noted this story a decade ago, but it came up again at the graduation ceremonies for the University of Florida:

The tradition of gowns faded between the Revolution and the Civil War but returned for commencement ceremonies as universities transitioned from elitist to public institutions in the latter half of the 19th century, including here at UF.

This renaissance was aided by a single enterprising graduate of Williams College named Gardner Cottrell Leonard [class of 1887].

Gardner either didn’t get to wear a gown, or didn’t like the one he did wear, at his Williams commencement ceremony in 1887.

Subsequently he visited England to study regalia and began writing articles and speaking about it in the U.S.

In fact, we owe the various colors for the disciplinesin tassels and hoods entirely to Gardner’s creativity.

He chose green for medicine, for example, because it reminded him of the color of herbs used in healing.

Many of Gardner’s ideas were codified in the 1896 Intercollegiate Code of Academic Costume, the basis for commencement regalia to this very day.

Why do Amherst seniors look stylish on graduation day? Because they were dressed by an Eph!

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