UNC Commencements Of The Past

Since graduation has come and gone and UNC’s seniors have been thrown out into the real world, it is an apt time to look at commencement traditions at UNC. In Kemp P. Battle’s History of the University of North Carolina: Volume 2, he mentions the tradition of the peace pipe. Following commencement exercises students would meet under the Old Poplar (also referred to as the Davie Poplar) to smoke the pipe of peace. According to Battle, June 4, 1883, was the first time that students gathered to partake in the smoking of the pipe but it became a yearly tradition thereafter. Later Battle describes another typical commencement scene in 1891:

There was then an adjournment for exercises around the Old Poplar in the afternoon. This was one of the most interesting occasions of Commencement. The circle of fine-looking young men, in caps and gowns under the classic tree; the friendly smoking of the “Pipe of Peace,” recalling the counsel of the Tuscaroras and Cherokees, the graceful forms of well-dressed ladies and their beaux scattered over the greensward, the ringing class songs and the final farewell of four year comrades, gave a memory not likely to fade.

This tradition continued into the early 1900’s and the last mention in the history is in 1907. During this era, students also added another tradition; one of burning their meeting benches after they had finished the pipe. Hmmm…I wonder if the class of 2010 could fit around the flagpole (the current smoking spot on campus) to puff on the peace pipe this year?