Skip to main content

The Program


Traditionally, the president hosts honorary degree recipients at a dinner the night before commencement or at a luncheon on commencement day. In addition, university representatives should escort these special guests and take care of such details as directions, transportation, parking, accommodations, and food. Such attention pays off for staff by eliminating worry that the day’s stars might miss the ceremony because they’re lost in a maze of unfamiliar buildings or can’t find a place to park.

Plan to cover the cost of the recipient’s hood, framed citation and diploma, and rental for regalia. Many schools cover travel expenses for the honoree and his or her spouse, but this is not mandatory. If airfare is cost-prohibitive, at minimum provide overnight hotel accommodations in your city. Honorary degree recipients are typically not paid honorariums, even if the person delivers the commencement address.

Typically, honorary degree hoods incorporate the school’s colors on a black shell. The design is often the same as the institution’s doctoral hood minus the Ph.D. blue or the faculty-color binding, or it features the school colors in a pattern that closely resembles the doctoral hood. Trustee hoods are four feet long, or doctor’s length.

All academic costumes require headwear, and trustee gowns are no exception. The most popular choice is a velvet tarn with a short gold tassel, although some schools incorporate thread tassels in a school color.

Trustee regalia are worn only on one’s own campus. Earned regalia are worn when the individual is participating in ceremonies on other campuses.

Emeriti trustees may revert to wearing earned regalia or continue to wear trustee regalia, according to the policy of the institution.

Back to top

Head Marshal’s Regalia

A head, or chief, marshal is a distinguished faculty member appointed to serve as official head of protocol and entitled by the Academic Costume Code to wear a “specially designed costume approved by the institution.” A marshal’s costume usually incorporates the school colors and often includes a fancy headdress.

The most flamboyant of the procession, the marshal’s regalia utilize school colors and are cut in the doctoral-robe style. Although traditional academic headgear would be acceptable, a marshal’s outfit is often topped with a fancier, custom-designed hat or headdress. In the 1960s, the Bowling Green State University chief marshal wore a white-plumed hat, a robe in the school colors of burnt orange and seal-brown trimmed in gold braid, and white gloves to carry the university mace. He made a showy but dignified appearance as he led academic processions.

Back to top

Honorary Degree Recipient Regalia

Traditionally, the university provides honorary degree candidates with a black doctor’s gown with black-velvet facings and sleeve chevrons and a tarn with a gold tassel, or a mortarboard with either gold- or back-thread tassel- all at the school’s expense. He or she is hooded with the school’s doctors’ hood trimmed in the appropriate faculty color. Honorary degree recipients may also wear the school’s own doctors’ gown. At WVU, the hoods are the traditional doctorate color on blue backing.

If the recipient has an earned Ph.D. and owns a black doctoral gown (with either black or blue-velvet trim), it can be worn for the occasion, but the hood should be left behind, as the honoree will be ceremonially hooded as part of the proceedings. In academic ceremonies, a candidate marches in a procession dressed for the degree he or she is about to receive. Often those who have earned Ph.D.s own the special colorful doctoral regalia that represent their alma mater. Such regalia should not…

Back to top


Candidates to be hooded en masse may either march in the procession wearing their hoods or carry them draped over their left arms.

Only one hood may be worn at a time. When a scholar is receiving simultaneous advanced degrees and will be called to the podium more than once for hooding, he or she should remove the first hood in preparation for receiving the second. The first hood can be left on the recipient’s chair during the second hooding or carried draped over the left arm.

Candidates march in procession dressed for the degree they are about to receive. A person with a master’s degree who is receiving a Ph.D. marches in a Ph.D. gown without a hood. Conversely, a person holding a Ph.D. but who is receiving an additional master’s degree marches wearing a master’s gown, no hood.

Candidates who will receive a terminal degree and a master’s degree at the same ceremony (a Juris Doctor and a master of publication administration, for example) march wearing the gown of the higher degree. The master’s degree hood should not be placed on the doctor’s gown. Instead, drape the master’s hood over the candidate’s left arm. Follow standard hooding procedures for presenting the doctor’s hood.

Trustees wear either their earned hoods or hoods especially designed for them by the school. Other platform party members wear their earned hoods.

When presidential regalia are used, the hood is in school colors designed to match the robe.

Honorary degree recipients receive the school’s official doctor’s hood trimmed entirely in black velvet or black velvet with the appropriate faculty color binding. Do not use Ph.D. blue.

“Non-code” self-designed hoods are not used.

No embellishments may be added to hoods.

Faculty and scholars who are graduates of foreign schools wear their earned regalia, including hoods.

Foreign students who are degree candidates wear the regalia appropriate to the degree they are about to receive.

Back to top

Mortarboards and Tams

Mortarboards rest flat on the head, parallel to the floor.

For an academic costume to be correct, mortarboards or tarns are required.

Men remove headwear during prayers. Signal this from the podium.

Back to top

Adding New Colors

Many questions arise today on which colors should be used for emerging disciplines.

On the subject of adding colors to represent new fields of study, the code is clear, “...the fundamental guidelines of the academic costume code may be adapted to local conditions. Such adaptations are entirely acceptable as long as they are reasonable and faithful to the spirit of the traditions that give rise to the code. They are not acceptable when they further subdivide the recognized disciplines and designate new colors for such subdivisions. Problems may arise with emerging broad interdisciplinary areas; it is recommended that these be resolved by using the color of the discipline the most nearly indicative of the new area.

As an alternative, black tassels are correct for any degree and offer a ready option for students earning degrees in new disciplines.

Because of the confusing academic nomenclature that describes college, degree, and major, questions often arise as to which color a candidate is entitled to wear. The answer is the candidate wears the faculty color that represents the field of study, or subject, not that of the college that awards the degree. The question is resolved by this example from the Academic Costume Code, “...the trimming for the degree of Master of Science in Agriculture should be maize, representing agriculture, rather than golden yellow, representing science.

Here are the official Academic Costume Code faculty colors to be used for tassels, trimmings of doctor’s gowns, and bindings on hoods.

Back to top

The Colors

Agriculture: Maize 
Arts, Letters, Humanities: White 
Commerce, Accountancy, Business: Drab 
Dentistry: Lilac 
Economics: Copper 
Education: Light Blue 
Engineering: Orange 
Fine Arts, including Architecture: Brown 
Forestry: Russet 
Journalism: Crimson 
Law: Purple 
Library Science: Lemon 
Medicine: Green 
Music: Pink 
Nursing: Apricot 
Oratory(speech): Silver Gray 
Pharmacy: Olive Green 
Philosophy: Dark Blue 
Physical Education: Sage Green 
Public Administration, including Foreign Service: Peacock Blue 
Public Health: Salmon Pink 
Science: Golden Yellow 
Social Work: Citron 
Theology: Scarlet 
Veterinary Science: Gray

Back to top