This Week in MIT HistoryBy Katherine Allen
In 1979, the first outdoor Commencement was held in Killian court. Over 6,000 chairs were set up in the court, with 4,000 chairs placed in Rockwell Cage, the previous commencement location, in case of rain. This added 1,250 available tickets to the ceremony, and allowed each graduate three tickets instead of the two which were allotted for the ceremony held in Rockwell Cage. This seems a small number, compared to this year’s Commencement, which has room for nearly 10,000 graduates, faculty, and guests, but was a significant improvement for the class of 1979.
Commencement had not been held outdoors since 1927, when Commencement was moved into Boston’s Symphony Hall. During the 50 years of indoor Commencement exercises, the location of the ceremony ranged from Symphony Hall to Trinity Church, to Rockwell Cage, which is still the emergency-backup location in case of severe weather. A little rain does not warrant the move indoors: the ceremony is generally not moved unless absolutely necessary, however.
However, true to the laws of probability, a little rain is exactly what the Institute got on that otherwise lovely June day. Graduates and their families sat, in plastic ponchos, through the traditional graduation festivities, including the presentation of degrees.