Tuesday, April 16, 2013

WRA Commencement Invitations

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1887 & 1889 Commencement invitations
As the result of an inquiry from Nancy Forhan of the Pioneer Women's Association, we checked into our file of commencement invitations and announcements from the 19th century. While the college was still on its campus in Hudson, the old Preparatory School did not have a ceremony of its own. Hence, someone like Henry H. Hosford (1859-1965) of our class of 1876, did not have a commencement until he graduated from the old college in 1880. The college moved to Cleveland in 1882, and that year the old Prep School took on its new identity as Western Reserve Academy.

1890 Commencement invitation
The first WRA commencement was held in the Chapel in June, 1883, with all thirteen students participating in the ceremony either as speakers or performers on musical instruments. This was during the regime of Headmaster Newton B. Hobart, and for the next several years this was the pattern of commencements held at Western Reserve Academy.  Hobart’s successor, Dr. Frederick W. Ashley, decided to change the order of business at the annual commencement. Instead of having the students each giving a talk or performing a musical piece, Ashley introduced the commencement speaker as a feature of the ceremony, followed by the awarding of diplomas. The first outside speaker was Dr. Charles F. Thwing, President of Western Reserve University in Cleveland who spoke in June, 1893. WRA had its first female commencement speaker in 1895 when it welcomed to the Chapel podium Miss Mary Evans, Principal of Lake Erie Seminary in Painesville (later to become Lake Erie College.) In the last year of Ashley’s tenure at the school, 1897, a student activity was introduced in the form of the “Ivy Ode” and the “Ivy Oration,” each to be given outside the Chapel. No text remains of this sweet student tribute to the school.
1902 Commencement invitation
and  commencement week
calendar of events
Invitations as well as announcements that were intended for mailing cover the era of 1883 through 1903 when the school closed for bankruptcy.  Some of these announcements are fairly elaborate with ribbons and other decorations that indicate the scale of importance these commencements had to the students and families of that era.