June 17, 2023

Chancellor Howard Gillman's Remarks at the Graduate Hooding

I am delighted to be with all of you today as we celebrate the UC Irvine Class of 2023!

This amazing class will forever be remembered as one of the most resilient and responsive and determined we have ever had the privilege of knowing.  Virtually all of you joined us before COVID transformed our world.  You had to adapt and persist through challenges that no previous class had to face, and you fought back to get to this day.  Incredible!

Consider your journey:  All those years, of dreaming, aspiring, planning, so many thousands of hours of work, so many long days and late nights, the sacrifices, the setbacks that were survived, pushed through, a long journey, a very high mountaintop … and here you are! 

Take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief and appreciate the magnitude of the accomplishment.  On behalf of the entire UCI community I offer you my most heartfelt congratulations.

I would like to acknowledge the members of the faculty who have been your mentors and guides on your remarkable journey.  They are dedicated to their mission of teaching and discovery, and in so doing they exemplify the highest ideals of the professoriate.  They advance human well-being, not just through their research, but by passing on their expertise to the next generation; that is the distinctive privilege of choosing a life of academic inquiry.  Please join me in an expression of appreciation to them for serving our world as educators.  

I also want to congratulate the families who have guided and nurtured the scholars we are celebrating today, and the friends who have supported and encouraged them.  This celebration is also the culmination of your hopes, your dreams, and we share your pride in the accomplishment of your student. 

Today we take part in a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. 

In medieval times, in the 12th and 13th centuries when the very first universities were founded, students and teachers were priests and monks who lived and worked in drafty and cold stone buildings.  They wore robes to stay warm, with hoods to protect their tonsured heads.  

By the late 14th century, being in a religious order was no longer necessary, but the robe and hood were retained to indicate a person’s academic standing.  The higher the degree, the thicker and warmer the hood. 

Over time, undergraduates abandoned the hood, and so it then became the mark of having attained an advanced degree, and distinctive colors were adopted by each discipline so that a scholar could tell at a glance what another scholar’s field was. 

Now that we have central heating and the other conveniences of modern life we no longer wear the robe and hood on a daily basis, but they remain very important. 

They symbolize your passage from being a student to being a scholar, to having acquired, by virtue of years of study, a mastery of your subject, and more than that, to having pursued original inquiry and made a substantial contribution to the world’s knowledge.  

The moment when your hood is put around your shoulders is the confirmation, the outward and visible sign, that you have joined the community of scholars.

While other degrees convey mastery of courses of study or outstanding technical and professional prowess, your degree represents the highest possible level of achievement and signifies your position on the frontiers of knowledge. 

You are pioneers, and it is through the work that you do, and that you inspire, that our world will be transformed:  what is unknown will be known; what is strange will become familiar; what is familiar will become strange; what is taken for granted will be subjected to critical scrutiny; the ordinary will become magical; the unimaginable, ordinary.  

You are among the most educated human beings who have ever lived – in a world where too many people are denied the right to learn – and you have applied your skills to the creation of new knowledge.  There is no better way to serve humankind.  

The motto of the University of California is Fiat Lux, Let There Be Light. Let your work illuminate the world, move humanity out of the darkness toward enlightenment, toward understanding, toward life itself.

Congratulations!  We are very proud of you, and we wish you the very best.