About the Ceremony

Ceremonies will take place in Bartow Arena (617 13th Street South). Doors open one hour prior to each ceremony. Graduating students will gather in Bell-Wallace Gymnasium, across 13th Street South from Bartow Arena, before making their way to Bartow.

Events will begin on time. University officials recommend guests arrive early and leave non-essential bags at home or in the car; mandatory checks of all bags entering Bartow Arena could slow entry.

To-Do List for Commencement Ceremony

The list below applies to all students. Doctoral students should refer to the UAB Graduate School Doctoral Hooding for additional information.

Prior to the Ceremony

  • Apply for degree by the appropriate deadline (see the Academic Calendar for more details).
  • Students who are unable to use the stairs or have other special needs should contact Disability Support Services at (205) 934-4205 at least one week prior to the ceremony.
  • RSVP that you plan to attend the commencement ceremony.
  • Purchase cap, gown, and tassel at the UAB Bookstore.
  • Complete the UAB First Destination Survey. This is a short survey about what you intend to do once you graduate from UAB. If you have already completed the survey on the link through BlazerNet, or through the email from Provost Benoit, you do not need to take it again.
  • You may pick up your pre-printed name card at Bell Wallace one hour prior to the commencement ceremony. At the ceremony your card will be used to have your name displayed on the jumbotron and read by announcers as you walk across the stage in Bartow Arena. Therefore, it is important to hold on to this card and bring it with you the day of commencement.

Day of the Ceremony

What to do before the actual Commencement program begins?

  • The recommended dress for graduates is comfortable business attire. Students should wear comfortable shoes for processions and walking up and down stairs. High-heeled shoes are discouraged, especially stiletto heels.
  • Students must arrive at Wallace Gymnasium, corner of 6th Avenue and 13th Street South, to line up no later than one hour prior to the ceremony. Students should have their caps and gowns already on. Masters students should have their hoods on, and doctoral students should carry their hoods.
  • Students should arrive to the Wallace Gym dressed in their regalia.
  • Honors students and Veterans should report to the appropriately labeled station to receive cords that denote distinction.
  • If you have not completed the First Destination Survey, please do so in advance.
  • Doctoral students should check in with Kimberly Eaton with the Graduate School. She will assist you with check in and doctoral hood assembly.

During the Ceremony

What to expect?

  • Students will process into Bartow Arena, led by faculty marshals from the specific school/college.
  • The appropriate dean will introduce to the president the candidates in each school, beginning with the highest degree. As directed, graduates from each school will stand as a group, with the tassels on the right side of their caps.
  • The recognition of graduating students will begin with the highest degree.
    • Students will ascend stairs to reach the platform and then present their identification cards to the reader and continue walking. Students will hear the reader call their names. The reader will not read any information on the lineup card other than students' names and the information pre-printed by the Registrar’s Office.
    • Students will approach their school dean and shake the dean's hand.
    • Master’s candidates will shake the Dean of the Graduate School’s hand, and honors students will shake the Honors College Dean’s hand.
    • Doctoral students will be hooded by their mentor and the Dean of the Graduate School.
    • Students will proceed across the stage and shake President Watts’ hand.
    • Students will pause at the base of the descending stairs for individual professional photographs. Students then return to their seats.
  • The ceremony will end with the singing of the UAB Alma Mater, followed by a formal recessional of the platform party.
    • The audience should remain in their seats until after the recessional.
    • There will be no formal recessional for students.

After the Ceremony


Family and friends are asked to meet the new alumni on the concourse or outside Bartow Arena; they will not be allowed on the arena floor.

 student at commencement ceremony

General Information

  • No tickets are required for guests attending Commencement, and there is no limit to the number of guests which each student may invite.
  • For guests, seating is first come, first served. Arena doors open one hour prior to each ceremony.
  • Events will begin on time. University officials recommend guests arrive early and leave non-essential bags at home or in the car; mandatory checks of all bags (diaper bags, purses, camera bags, etc.) entering Bartow Arena could slow entry.
  • Family and friends will not be permitted on the arena floor after the ceremony in order to allow graduates to exit and for staff to prepare for the next event. Our new alumni are asked to meet their family and friends at an agreed-upon location on the concourse or outside of Bartow Arena.
  • Strollers will not be allowed in Bartow Arena on the day of the ceremony.
  • Participants and guests are asked not to bring balloons into Bartow Arena, as they can block the view of others.
  • The lower entrances on 13th and 14th Street are for graduates, faculty, and staff only. Guests are asked to use the other entrances.
  • Please visit the Travel section for more details about parking, lodging, directions, and special needs.


Professional Photographs by GradImages

  • A professional photographer (from GradImages) will be taking photographs of students receiving their diplomas.
  • To receive a photograph, a student should complete the reverse side of the lineup card, and a proof will be mailed to that address.
  • There is no obligation to buy a photograph.

Personal Photographs

  • Spectators may bring cameras and video recorders into the Bartow Arena, but no one will be permitted on the floor of the arena to film or take photographs.
  • Pictures and videos must be taken from the spectator's seat.
  • No gathering in the portals of the arena will be allowed.

Tradition & History

History of Commencement at UAB

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Academic Costume

The custom of wearing academic caps, gowns, and hoods can be traced to the twelfth century.  At that time both men and women wore long, full, flowing robes. This mode of dress gradually changed so that by the end of the seventeenth century only legal and official personages wore gowns.

In 1895, the Intercollegiate Commission presented American institutions of higher learning the Intercollegiate Code. This code regulated the design of gowns and hoods as well as the colors and materials to be used. The code was subsequently adopted by more than 95 percent of U.S. colleges and universities. It has given America an impressive but simple method of signifying scholastic honors.

The green oxford or mortarboard-style cap is worn for all degrees, but only the doctor’s cap may be made of velvet and have a gold tassel.

The following is a list of colors assigned to several of the disciplines within The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Discipline Color Discipline Color
Arts White Nursing Apricot
Business Drab Optometry Seafoam Green
Dentistry Lilac Philosophy Dark Blue
Education Light Blue Public Health Salmon Pink
Engineering Orange Science Gold Yellow
Fine Arts Brown Social Science Citron
Medicine Green   

Ceremonial Academic Mace

The ceremonial academic mace appeared in European universities during the fourteenth century and represented the amalgamation of two much older staff-like devices of similar length and shape. These were the regal scepter and the medieval battle mace. Kings throughout history have carried scepters as insignia of the lawful authority of just rulers. The battle mace was first used by medieval princes as an effective hand weapon in combat.

The UAB mace and its holder were commissioned, designed, and executed in 1989 by the noted Alabama sculptor, Cordray Parker, with the help of Heidi J. Bowman on the enameled medallions. The mace was made possible through the generosity of the late Samuel B. Barker, Ph.D., and his late wife, Justine. Dr. Barker, distinguished professor emeritus and dean emeritus of UAB, was the first dean of the UAB Graduate School and a leading patron of the arts in Birmingham.

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 UAB. 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 UAB stands proud.

Words and Music by David McNeeley

Listen to the UAB Alma Mater

President's Medal

The UAB President’s Medal is designed to recognize individuals who have attained scholarly distinction and/or have rendered distinguished service to UAB. Recipients are selected by the President of UAB upon the advice and recommendation of senior university officials.  Selection as the recipient of this medal is one of the highest honors bestowed by UAB.

The award is comprised of an antique brass medallion and plaque, suitably inscribed, mounted in a cherry stand.  The UAB President’s Medal is awarded at a commencement ceremony.

Past Recipients of the UAB President's Medal

  • 2017—Hatton C. V. Smith
  • 2016—Kirby I. Bland, M.D.
  • 2015—Charles A. Collat, Sr.
  • 2015—Wayne H. Finley, Ph.D., M.D.
  • 2013—Sergio Stagno, M.D.
  • 2012—John J. McMahon, Jr.
  • 2012—Louise T. Chow, Ph.D.
  • 2011—George Howard, Dr.P.H.
  • 2010—Michael S. Saag, M.D.
  • 2009—Malcolm Portera, Ph.D.
  • 2008—Basil I. Hirschowitz, M.D.
  • 2007—Richard J. Whitley, M.D.
  • 2006—Ina Branham Leonard, J.D.
  • 2006—Virginia D. Gauld, Ph.D.
  • 2005—Rachel Z. Booth, Ph.D., R.N.
  • 2005—John M. Lyons, Ph.D.
  • 2004—William James Koopman, M.D.
  • 2003—Margaret M. Porter
  • 2003—T. Michael Goodrich
  • 2003—Julian Watts Banton
  • 2002—Ada W. Long, Ph.D.
  • 2001—John N. Whitaker, M.D.
  • 2000—A. D. Pacifico, M.D.
  • 1999—James A. Garland
  • 1998—Odessa Woolfolk
  • 1997—Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith
  • 1996—William A. Sibley, Ph.D.
  • 1995—George N. Mickwee
  • 1994—Aaron L. Lamar, Jr., Ed.D.
  • 1993—Albert F. LoBuglio, M.D.
  • 1992—Juan M. Navia, Ph.D.
  • 1991—Samuel B. Barker, Ph.D.
  • 1990—Fred W. Sington
  • 1989—James Hatcher
  • 1988—Max D. Cooper, M.D.
  • 1987—Peter Garthwaite Smith
  • 1986—Janet Redman Hill
  • 1986—B. Gene Bartow
  • 1985—J. Durwood Bradley, M.D.

National Alumni Society Distinguished Alumnus Award

The UAB National Alumni Society Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes and honors a graduate of UAB who has made significant contributions to the Society and whose accomplishments and career have brought great credit to The University of Alabama at Birmingham. The honoree must hold an earned degree or certificate from UAB, be a member in good standing of the UAB National Alumni Society, and have demonstrated a continuing interest in UAB.

The recipient for the award is selected by the Board of Directors of the UAB National Alumni Society based on recommendations and nominations from the UAB administration, members of the National Alumni Society, and other groups associated with UAB.

Past Recipients of the UAB National Alumni Society Distinguished Alumnus Award

  • 1991—Lawrence J. DeLucas, O.D., Ph.D.
  • 1992—Richard M. Scrushy
  • 1993—Helene Griffin Robertson
  • 1994—William L. Roper, M.D.
  • 1995—James H. Woodward, Ph.D.
  • 1996—Kenneth L. Jackson
  • 1997—Charles A. McCallum, D.M.D., M.D.
  • 1998—Martha Warren Bidez, Ph.D.
  • 1999—Jean A. Jacobs Kelley, Ed.D.
  • 2000—Robert C. Chapman
  • 2001—Tommie G. Cummings
  • 2002—Michael S. Stephens
  • 2003—Gail H. Cassell, Ph.D.
  • 2004—Marie L. O’Koren, Ed.D.
  • 2005—Mary Lynne Capilouto, D.M.D.
  • 2006—Albert J. Tully, Jr., M.D.
  • 2007—Ray L. Watts, M.D.
  • 2008—Julie Hanna
  • 2009—Linda C. Lucas, Ph.D.
  • 2010—Marquita Davis, Ph.D.
  • 2011—Ann Harper Arrasmith
  • 2012—Phyllis Norton DePiano
  • 2013—Kathryn B. Freeland
  • 2014—Lee Price, Major General (U.S. Army, Retired)
  • 2015—Gillian A. Goodrich
  • 2016—Will Ferniany, Ph.D.
  • 2017—Edward E. Partridge, M.D.

Video Stream and Archives

Facebook liveCommencement ceremonies will be live streamed on UAB's Facebook page.

UAB Commencement ceremonies recorded and archived here.