Commencement History

June 16, 1969: Governor Albert P. Brewer announced the establishment of The University of Alabama System comprised of autonomous campuses in Tuscaloosa (UA), Birmingham (UAB), and Huntsville (UAH). The University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) became one of the three universities in the new three-campus system.

June 7, 1970:
In ceremonies held at the Birmingham Municipal Auditorium, UAB awarded its first degrees as an autonomous university. Dr. Joseph F. Volker, UAB president, received the University's first honorary degree. Ronald T. Acton received a Ph.D. in Microbiology, becoming the first person to receive a degree from the University. Ellen Clyde Cook received a degree in Microbiology, the first master's degree awarded by the University, and George Adams, Jr., received a degree in Anthropology-Sociology, the first bachelor's degree awarded by the University.

June 7, 1970: Richard Charles Dale and Samuel William Sullivan, Jr., became the first African American graduates of the School of Medicine.

August 29, 1970: UAB’s second commencement ceremony was held in the Exhibition Hall at the Birmingham Municipal Auditorium for 173 graduates, including 59 who received advanced degrees.

June 1971: Six students received their Bachelor of Science degrees in Physiological Optics becoming the first graduates of the School of Optometry.

June 4, 1973: Seven optometry students received the first O.D. degrees during UAB's commencement exercises; Neil M. Bleakley was the School's first doctoral graduate.

June 9, 1974: Catherine Steinmitz Amos received her O.D. degree becoming the School of Optometry's first female graduate.

June 9, 1974: Jimmie Walker, Jr., and Wilson Wright, Jr., became the first African American graduates of the School of Dentistry.

December 15, 1974: Patience Hodges Claybon became the first African American female graduate of the School of Medicine.

June 5, 1977: Joyce S. Madison became the first African American female to graduate from the School of Dentistry.

June 4, 1978: Terrence Nelson Ingraham received his O.D. degree becoming the first African American graduate of the School of Optometry.

June 7, 1986: The first five students graduated from the UAB Honors Program.

June 4, 1989: The UAB Mace, designed by local artist Cordray Parker, was first used during the university’s commencement. Dr. Virginia D. Horns-Marsh carried the mace into the ceremony. It was commissioned by Dr. and Mrs. Samuel B. Barker.

November 3, 2003:
The UAB alma mater premieres at the UAB Homecoming football game against Army.  David McNelley of Trussville wrote and composed the alma mater, which a committee selected among 42 submissions in a public competition.

UAB Alma Mater

Here in Alabama, a place of rich diversity,
Stands our Alma Mater. We cherish her integrity.
May each loyal son and daughter wear
Proudly the colors green and gold.
Praise to thee our U.A.B. Her honor we uphold.

Yearning minds of age and youth
Live and love her noble truth.
Moving ahead with blazing speed
T'wards knowledge to empow’r,
In the heart of Birmingham our U.A.B. stands proud.

May 3, 2008
: For the first time, UAB graduates wear green commencement robes accented with gold UAB seals.

May 9, 2009: Due to the number of graduates and to better accommodate invited guests, UAB for the first time offered two commencement ceremonies. A morning ceremony was held for the graduates of the Schools of Arts & Humanities, Education, Natural Sciences & Mathematics, and Social & Behavioral Sciences. An afternoon ceremony was held for the graduates of the Schools of Business, Dentistry, Engineering, Health Professions, Public Health, Medicine, Nursing, and Optometry.

December 12, 2009: For the first time, the UAB commencement ceremony was streamed live via the internet.

May 8, 2010: UAB issues the first degrees to graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences.  In January 2010, three schools--Arts and Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Natural Science and Mathematics--merged into one College of Arts and Sciences. A fourth, the School of Education, retained its school identity as a distinct unit, but within the new college.

Some content courtesy of the UAB Archives, the University of Alabama at Birmingham.