The first convocation ceremony in Queen's history took place on June 2, 1847, when the Senate awarded degrees to the University's first three graduates, probably in St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. It was not until 1858 that convocations got their first designated, on-campus home: in a special convocation hall, constructed as part of the Old Medical Building.
The University soon outgrew that venue and the hall was dismantled after a larger Convocation Hall was included in Theological Hall, which opened in 1878. Convocations soon moved on again, to the yet more spacious Grant Hall, completed in 1905.
After the rapid growth of Queen's in the 1950s and 1960s, convocations moved to the Jock Harty Arena in the early 1970s, although fall ceremonies continued to be held at Grant Hall. With the dismantling of Jock Harty Arena in 2007, Grant Hall has once again become a host location for spring ceremonies, along with the Queen’s Centre.
Convocations have always been a time for pomp and circumstance. Until the 1950s, however, they were also frequently marked by rowdy behaviour, as students were notorious for drowning out speakers with catcalls and other noise and were even known to pelt the audience with assorted vegetables.
The ceremonies have become quieter in recent decades. The main features of the convocation ceremony are a speech to the graduands by a senior administrator, an honorary graduate, or a guest speaker - a tradition that dates from the granting of the first honorary degree in 1858 - and the granting of degrees by the Chancellor. Traditional music includes "Flourish for the Chancellor," an organ composition written specially for convocation by Queen's music professor Fred Clarke.
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