September 2nd, 1795

Williams celebrates its first Commencement in the old town meeting house.

In early years, commencement was a time for students to exhibit the knowledge and skills they had acquired during their years at Williams. Orations and disputations were organized, in Latin, English and French, on such far-ranging topics as the slave trade, American government, the French Revolution, and the education of women. It was common at these first commencements for each student to speak several times; in 1795, for example, every senior appeared on the program four times. As the number of graduates grew each year, however, fewer students were selected to speak.