The purple side of Western Carolina University’s traditional purple and gold colors will be much more in prominence at the university’s fall commencement ceremonies as students receiving bachelor’s degrees will be switching from wearing mostly black to predominately purple academic regalia.
Approximately 800 graduating students and recently minted WCU alumni are expected to take part in the commencement that begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Ramsey Regional Activity Center. In addition to undergraduate and graduate students who are currently finishing up academic requirements to receive their degrees, the event also will include the participation of a group of alumni upon whom degrees were conferred at the end of WCU’s summer sessions.
The new outfit for those who will participate in the undergraduate portion of the ceremonies includes a purple gown with a gold chancellor’s seal on one shoulder, purple cap and mortarboard, and a purple and gold tassel.
The concept of switching to purple was the brainchild of Pam DeGraffenreid, supervisor of the WCU Bookstore, where the graduation regalia is sold.
“The idea came from my attendance at the UNC-Chapel Hill commencement when my daughter graduated in 2011. When I saw everyone march out in their Carolina blue gowns, the sense of pride was overwhelming. I just remember thinking how nice it would be for our students to have the same experience,” DeGraffenreid said.
“I feel the new gowns say ‘we are Western,’ and when the students reminisce about their college graduation they will remember how proud they felt wearing their school color,” she said.
Students coming by the bookstore to purchase their regalia have been excited to see the gowns, DeGraffenreid said. “Our feedback has been quite positive with very few negative comments,” she said.
The color change was approved by both the university’s Commencement Committee and the chancellor’s Executive Council. Graduate students will continue to wear black at commencement.
The upcoming commencement will be doubly meaningful for DeGraffenreid, who will get to see her son, Al DeGraffenreid, walk across the stage in his purple gown as a member of the fall class. He will be receiving his bachelor’s degree in sociology.