A Window Into the Past: NYU in Retrospect
academics       Graduation Day



A private ceremony that included only three students, the first commencement of the University of the City of New-York was held in 1833. The very next year, on July 17, 1834, the first public graduation ceremony took place at Middle Dutch Church on Nassau Street and the number of degrees conferred increased threefold. By 1835, the commencement was held in neighboring churches or in the new University Building on Washington Square East (now the site of the Main Building).

During the latter half of the nineteenth century, commencement sites included the Astor Opera House, Niblo's Garden at Broadway and Prince Street, the old Metropolitan Opera House, and Carnegie Hall. Between 1900 and 1969, the ceremony was held at the University Heights campus in the Bronx. The celebration was moved to Madison Square Garden and later returned to Washington Square in 1976. Today graduating students continue to celebrate their achievement by running through the fountain in Washington Square Park.

NYU’s commencement ceremony has grown to become a major public event that has included the vice-president, the governor, the mayor, state legislators, city aldermen, and fellow educators. The ceremonies continue to represent the ideals of founder Albert Gallatin who desired to create a place of learning that remained open to the community at large.

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