History and Traditions
The first commencement at Mount Union was held on June 17, 1858.
President Hartshorn selected Dr. Calvin Kingsley, editor of the Ladies Repository at Cincinnati, to speak. Prior to being an editor, Kingsley was a professor at Allegheny College.
Early that morning exercises were commenced in College Hall, by reading the 91st psalm, prayer by Kingsley, reading the scholastic reports and remarks by President Hartshorn and others.
A procession was formed and marched into the church, accompanied by the Alliance Brass Band.
The commencement ceremony was held in the Methodist Church at Mount Union, because College Hall had a very limited seating capacity.
The ceremony was opened with prayer by Rev. G. W. Clarke, followed by a program of orations. One oration, 'The Morning Dawneth,' was delivered by Jane Weston Chapman.
After the program of address by Kingsley, Hartshorn delivered the Baccalaureate address and then followed by conferring degrees.
The graduating class consisted of six young men and one young lady. The six men included Albert Baker, A.B.; Samuel Fletcher DeFord, S.B.; William Harrison Dressler, A.B.; Joseph W. Gillespie, A.B.; Samuel Greer Hair, A.B.; and George Hester, A.B. The first female graduate, Jane Weston (Mrs. I. O. Chapman) earned a Bachelor of Science degree. Although the college had not received its charter until January of that year, it was decided that the first college degrees would be awarded that June and not four years later.
In the fifteen year period from the chartering of the college to 1873, a total of 195 graduates received degrees from Mount Union; 28 of whom were women; of this latter number, six earned an A.B. degree, 21 earned a B.S. degree and one earned a Ph.B. degree.
At the commencement of 1888 the first African American student in the history of the College, Wayne Manzilla, graduated with an A.B. degree.