This weekend, hundreds of family members and friends will fill the bleachers at the Palestra and the auditorium of the Annenberg Center to watch their loved ones cross the stage to accept their hard-earned diplomas. There are several graduation traditions attendees will recognize: the keynote commencement speeches, the caps and gowns, and the familiar notes of “Pomp and Circumstance.” But there may be a tradition that is less familiar to the uninitiated.
Near the end of the Undergraduate and MBA graduation ceremonies an annual tradition called “The Passing of the Flag” will take place to mark the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of the graduates. It begins at the top of the ceremony with the Wharton Alumni Marshal processing with the official Wharton Alumni Flag in hand and placing it onstage.
It’s a role that represents some important school-wide values. “As a leader within the Wharton community, the Alumni Marshal illustrates the strength and breadth of Wharton’s network,” said Sam Lundquist, Vice Dean of Wharton External Affairs. “They represent the tradition of Wharton alumni remaining closely connected with the School throughout their lives, long after they graduate.”
After the last diploma is conferred, the Alumni Marshal is introduced by either Sam or another External Affairs representative and invited to physically pass the flag to one representative of the graduating class. “This moment is so important because it marks the next phase of their long-term relationship with Wharton and their membership in our global alumni community,” said Sam.
It’s also a time to celebrate. Now with the alumni flag in hand, the graduating class representative can choose to savor the moment in their own way. Many flag-bearers take the opportunity for a quick victory lap around the floor of the arena and wave the flag triumphantly over their head.
Some graduates even show off their creativity and planning skills. At the 2015 MBA Graduation ceremony, class representative Alana Rush WG’15 accepted the flag from Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, both WG’10 and co-CEOs and co-founders of Warby Parker. A few classmates joined Alana, donned Hawaiian leis and sunglasses — blue Warby Parkers, of course — and ran down the center aisle. As the flag passed each row the rest of the grads did “The Wave” in celebration.
After the ceremony concludes and the excitement subsides, the alumni flag returns to its on-campus home in Vance Hall until it welcomes next year’s graduates to the ranks of Wharton alumni.
— Mike Kaiser
Posted: April 2, 2018