Planning for Commencement

Dear Families of the Class of 2020,

It is my pleasure to invite you to attend the 231st Commencement of Williams College. My colleagues and I congratulate you on your senior’s accomplishments while at Williams.

Over the coming months we will work out the details of Commencement Weekend 2020. In order to help you plan ahead, here are the dates and times of the four major events:

Saturday, June 6

Ivy Exercises, 1:10 p.m. Baccalaureate, 5 p.m.

Sunday, June 7

Commencement, 10 a.m. President’s Reception, 12:15 p.m.

An overview of the weekend follows. You will receive a more detailed calendar in March. As events develop, we will post updated information on our Commencement website.

If you have questions please do not hesitate to contact the Office of Commencement and Academic Events by phone at 413-597-3539, or email us at [email protected].

We look forward to seeing you in June!


Jay Thoman

Hodge Markgraf Professor of Chemistry
College Marshal

Williams College Commencement Weekend

Saturday and Sunday, June 6 & 7, 2020

Ivy Exercises, 1:10–2:40 p.m., Saturday. Ivy Exercises, held outdoors on the Library Quad, is an informal event presented by the officers of the senior class. Members of the class plant ivy, read the class poem and the class history, perform music, and sing the college song. The dean of the college announces over 100 student awards. The event ends with the 100-year-old tradition of dropping a watch from the top of Thompson Memorial Chapel. If the watch breaks, the class will have good luck! Tickets are not required.

Baccalaureate, 5:00–6:15 p.m., Saturday. Baccalaureate is a service of gratitude and remembrance, using the languages of many religions to celebrate the transformation of learning into wisdom. Seniors process in cap and gown to Chapin Hall. If you’re planning for dinner after the ceremony, we recommend starting after 6:30 p.m. Tickets are required.

Commencement, 10:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m., Sunday. This is the main event! Commencement is held outdoors on the Library Quad. It begins with a formal academic procession at 9:30 a.m. During the ceremony, three members of the Senior Class give brief speeches, honorary degrees are awarded, one of the honorary degree recipients gives the address and President Mandel awards each student their diploma. The High Sheriff of Berkshire County brings the ceremony to a close and leads a formal academic recessional. Please plan to occupy only six seats per graduate in the Library Quad, our outdoor venue. We invite additional guests to sit in Chapin Hall, where they can view the ceremony on a large screen; this venue is fully air-conditioned, offers comfortable seating, and is fully accessible. Tickets are not required.

President’s Reception, immediately following Commencement on Sunday. President Mandel invites the graduates and their guests to a buffet lunch on Chapin Lawn. Tickets are not required.

Rain Plan: Every effort is made to hold Ivy Exercises and Commencement outdoors. In the event of severe weather, Ivy Exercises and Commencement will be moved inside to the Lansing Chapman Rink. Chapel bells will toll at 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning to signal indoor Commencement. Graduates will also be notified by email, prior to 9 a.m.

Commencement Livestream: For people who are unable to attend Commencement, Williams College will live stream the ceremony from the homepage of the college’s website.

General Information


All of the weekend’s events are free of charge. Tickets are required for Baccalaureate and indoor Commencement.

  • Baccalaureate: Because seating is limited, each senior can request up to two guest tickets in May on a first-come, first-served basis. Others can view a live stream of the service from the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance. Tickets for the live stream are not required.
  • Indoor Commencement: Each senior will automatically receive four guest tickets for the rink that they can pick up at the book store the week before Commencement. These will only be used in the case that severe weather forces us to hold Commencement indoors in the Lansing Chapman Rink. Unlimited overflow seating will be available in Chandler Gymnasium where guests can view the ceremony on a large screen.

Accommodations: A full list of hotels, motels, and B&B’s in and around Williamstown can be found in the ‘For Families’ section of the Commencement site. Seniors on financial aid may request up to four beds in Mission Park for their families on Friday and Saturday nights of Commencement Weekend. The charge is $20 per bed (nonrefundable) for the entire weekend. Invitations to reserve campus housing will be sent to seniors in early March.

Caps and Gowns: The college provides Greenweaver caps and gowns (made from 100% post-consumer plastic bottles) at no charge to students. Seniors may pick them up Wednesday, June 3 through Saturday, June 6, at the Williams Bookstore.

Accessibility: Every effort is made to anticipate the needs of those coming to campus. The online Williams Commencement map (available in March) includes information about accessible parking. Please contact us if you have any specific accessibility needs while on campus. Although we cannot provide wheelchairs, we encourage you to contact Surgimed at least one week in advance if you need such services. (Surgimed, 109 Eagle Street, North Adams, MA, 413-663-8655.)

Yearbooks and PicturesThe Gulielmensian will contact families and students about ordering yearbooks. Commencement Photos ( will take photos of each graduate during the ceremony and contact families shortly after Commencement with an access code to purchase photos.

Question? Contact the Office of Commencement & Academic Events
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 413-597-3539