UAC Commencement Programs


UAC Commencement Programs

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862, which provided the means for establishing new colleges in each state or territory. These schools were intended to promote higher education and practical learning to people of all walks of life, especially rural life. Utah State University, initially named The Agricultural College of Utah, or the Utah Agricultural College (UAC), was founded as Utah’s land-grant institution on March 8, 1888.  Two years later, the first students enrolled in classes, leading to the school's first commencement ceremony in 1894.  

While  the UAC’s  curriculum concentrated on agriculture, mechanic arts and domestic science, the college also provided instruction in the arts, sciences and business. In addition to students receiving four year degrees in agriculture, domestic science and engineering in 1894,  eight other students received two year associates degrees in the commercial course. This makes USU one of the oldest business schools in the West. 

The UAC’s success sparked concern among some state legislators who feared its growth might hinder the progress of the University of Utah.  In 1907, legislators passed a bill that limited UAC's curriculum to agriculture, domestic arts, and mechanic arts.  This caused  programs in the arts and humanities, engineering, and education, among others,to close for the next 20 years, until in 1927 the legislature lifted the restrictions,   except for law and medicine.

In 1914, UAC granted its first graduate degree, a master's in agriculture.  Four years later, during the height of World War I, the campus was temporarily transformed into a military institution.  Student trainees were housed  in barracks constructed around the quad.  Unlike most military structures which were wooden, these barracks were built of brick and mortar,making them readily adaptable for classroom and laboratory use after the war.  This essentially doubledthe size of campus.

Land-grant institutions, and especially USU, have had a long military tradition.  In 1921, USU held its first commissioning exercises in conjunction with commencement, awarding  undergraduate degrees to officers in the Reserve Corps of the U.S. Army .

In 1929, the Utah Agricultural College was renamed the Utah State Agricultural College.In 1957, Utah State Agricultural College became today's Utah State University.

This digital exhibit includes programs, invitations, and even a dinner menu from the commencement ceremonies spanning from 1894 to 1919.  It also includes commencement-specific articles from the local newspapers and pages from selected volumes of “Student Life,” the school’s student-published campus newspaper. Note: As with all archival collections, there are some missing years due to a lack of records.

View the full collection of commencement programs here: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/commencement/


  • Madie Ward – Scanning technician, metadata, uploading, digital exhibit curation, research, and text writing (intern, Digital Initiatives Department)
  • Dylan Burns – Project management and advisor (Digital Scholarship Librarian, Digital Initiatives Department)
  • Shay Larsen - Graphic Design (Graphic Designer, Digital Initiatives Department)