General Commencement Information

2020 Commencement Ceremonies

Personalized Commencement announcements may be ordered from Balfour for the undergraduate Commencement at the Undergraduate Grad Fair. Announcements for the law Commencement may be ordered from Balfour at the Law Grad Fair. Both Undergraduate and Law Graduation announcements can also be ordered through the University Store website.

Graduating seniors must attend in approved regalia, with no unapproved adornment. The cost is $50 for undergraduate seniors who wish to be fitted with a cap and gown, which may be kept after the ceremony. The regalia is produced with "green" material. The Grad Fair is the only opportunity to order undergraduate caps and gowns from Oak Hall. Caps and gowns for undergraduates may be picked up on Tuesday, May 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Elrod University Commons, Room 114.

Law-student regalia is provided through Balfour, including tams, gowns, tassels, and hoods, through the University Store. With the exception of the tam and tassel, these must be returned at the end of the ceremony to the Elrod University Commons. Measurements for law academic regalia will take place at the Law Grad Fair.

During the Commencement ceremony, students receive top-quality parchment diplomas at no additional charge. The diploma order is submitted no later than March 1, after which changes to names or other diploma details will incur a reprint fee charged to the student account. After Commencement, students also receive official, secure, and verifiable certified electronic diplomas at no additional charge.

W&L provides sign-language interpreters for both Commencement ceremonies. Service dogs and family members in wheelchairs are welcome. While W&L does not provide wheelechairs or other mobility equipment, Lexington Prescription Center (540.463.9166) is a local source for wheelchair rentals. Guests who have special needs in order to enjoy the ceremonies, including special seating in view of the interpreters, should contact either Maryanne Simurda, University Marshal, by email (simurdam@wlu.edu) or telephone (540-458-8897) or Ethan Kipnes, Director of Public Safety, by email (ekipnes@wlu.edu) or telephone (540-458-8427).

Special parking recommendations are also available in the "Parking" section below.

Guests are advised to dress comfortably. The weather in Lexington during May is often warm and humid. If ceremonies are held outside, most seating will be on the beautiful, sunny, and gently sloping Colonnade in front of Lee Chapel, facing toward the sun, so comfortable shoes, light clothing, hats, and sunglasses will be useful.

Law Commencement Exercises are expected to be completed by 11:15 a.m. The Undergraduate Baccalaureate Service usually ends shortly after 11:00 a.m. The Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony is expected to end by 12:15 p.m.

The Student Health staff is available in Newcomb Hall at the left end of the Colonnade to assist those who need minor first aid or are becoming overheated. Remote viewing of the Commencement exercises is available. The Student Health staff are also able to contact a local rescue squad who are standing by in case of a medical emergency.

Diploma frames -- all featuring archival quality mats embossed in gold or a medallion with the University coat of arms and name -- are available from the University Store in a variety of styles. The University Store also offers an exclusive diploma-frame design which incorporates a panoramic sepia photo of the Colonnade. All diploma frames will be available for purchase at a five-percent discount ONLY during the Law Grad Fair  and the Undergraduate Grad Fair.

The University Store also offers special photo frames matted with gold and embossed with the W&L coat of arms and name suitable for holding the diploma-presentation photograph. These frames will also be available at a discount ONLY during the respective Grad Fairs.

A large selection of exclusive gifts to celebrate the Washington and Lee experience is available in the University Store and on its website: the W&L armchair or rocker, lamp, a selection of fine framed art depicting W&L, quality embossed leather briefcases and computer cases, time pieces, writing instruments, and apparel, all subtly enhanced with the W&L or W&L Law official mark. Many of these items can be personalized with the graduate's name and class year. The University Store will wrap your gift of choice at no additional charge to commemorate this special day.

  • The Undergraduate Grad Fair is scheduled for Elrod Commons Atrium, March 12-14, 10 am to 5 pm.
  • The Law Grad Fair is scheduled for the Lewis Hall Moot Court Lobby, February 11-12, 10 am to 2 pm.

Parking for commencement exercises is available in the parking deck located off Nelson Street and East Denny Circle behind the gymnasium complex. The Front Lawn is a short walk from the parking deck. Please refer to the campus map for more detail

Washington and Lee provides other convenient access to the law and undergraduate commencement exercises and the undergraduate baccalaureate service for all those who are able to walk only short distances, who have difficulty climbing steps, who use a wheelchair, or who otherwise need special assistance. The university provides special parking and transportation for the Commencement and Baccalaureate ceremonies for those guests who are handicapped or have special health concerns.

We designate the Lee Chapel Visitors lot on Jefferson Street and Washington Street from Lee Avenue to Nelson Street as Handicapped and Special Needs parking. These areas will be closed to all others. Please advise your families that this parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis, so they need to plan arrival times accordingly. We also will have a golf cart available to transport special-needs guests to the ceremonies from those areas. When these areas fill, guests may drop off their special-needs guests near the President's house on Washington Street and they can still be transported to the ceremony.

Access to the Elrod University Commons or to the rain-plan site for law commencement at Warner Center may be granted to individuals through the underground entrance. If undergraduate Baccalaureate or Commencement uses VMI's Cameron Hall for the rain site, buses will be available to transport guests from the back-campus and parking deck, because on-street parking is limited in the vicinity of VMI's Cameron Hall. To request assistance, please contact Ethan Kipnes, Director of Public Safety, by email (ekipnes@wlu.edu) or phone (540-458-8427), or Maryanne Simurda, University Marshal, by e-mail (simurdam@wlu.edu) or phone (540-458-8897).

Class pictures are scheduled prior to Commencement at times and locations noted in the Schedule of Events. A "Class of ..." banner will be set up on the Colonnade for individuals, families and other groups who may want a photo. There are a few spots near the line-up area and along the procession route which might be of interest as well.

Amateur photographers are asked to be aware of and respect others taking pictures, including the university's photographers. Space and line-of-sight limitations prevent us from accommodating tripods near the stage during the ceremony.

Graduates receiving law degrees or undergraduate degrees from The College cross the stage from right to left facing Lee Chapel, so guests may find the best vantage point to the left of the stage facing the chapel. Graduates receiving degrees for work in the Williams School cross the stage from left to right facing the chapel, so guests may find the best vantage point to the right of the stage facing the chapel.

Individual still photographs are taken of each graduate by a University-approved vendor, Photo Specialties, which captures the special moments of graduation ceremonies. Photo Specialties will send proofs of each graduate's photograph(s) to them via email and US mail within two weeks after the ceremony. Official Washington and Lee frames for these and other photographs are available in the University Store. For additional information about individual still photography or photo frames, please contact the University Store at store@wlu.edu or 540-458-8633.

For the undergraduate commencement ceremony, air-conditioned, remote viewing of the Commencement exercises is available in the first aid/cooling station area of Newcomb Hall and in the Leyburn Smart Zone on the main floor of Leyburn Library, in addition to the streaming video on the Web.

The ground in front of Lee Chapel is slightly sloping and the university provides chairs. There is also limited space under shade trees, shading tents, and along the Colonnade on the edges of the graduation area. The audience faces into the sun, so appropriate protection and clothing is advised. The sun is almost directly over Lee Chapel at 12 noon. If we must move inside, VMI's Cameron Hall has individual, padded, stadium seats and is air-conditioned and remote viewing sites will be set up on W&L's campus.

The number of guests at commencement is not limited, and those attending may sit anywhere in the area other than in a few designated sections. No tickets are required for any of the Washington and Lee's commencement activities and the ceremonies are open to the public.

The ceremonies are streamed live at go.wlu.edu/commencementlive/.