The Cane Ceremony, a traditional part of the Adrian College Commencement, has a rich and colorful heritage. As depicted in this 1940's era drawing by Will Cairns, each Adrian College graduating class ties a ribbon in its class colors to the Shepherd's Crook and passes the cane on to the junior class. In recent years, the names of the graduates have been printed on the class ribbon.
This unique college tradition began as part of the first Class Day Exercises in June 1875. The original cane was described as "gold mounted," and the ceremony was conducted in the chapel in Downs Hall "in sober fashion." In 1885 a new cane was made of a "good-sized sapling bent in semblence of a shepherd's crook." Two years later, members of the Class of 1887 carved their class motto, and that of the two previous classes, into the new cane. Barely visible today under the many knotted ribbons, the carvings read:
'85 Festina Lente
'86 Semper est Studendum
'87 Non sine labore
By 1920, the cane had become an object of college pranksters. During Commencement
Week, sophomore boys would try to steal the crook from President Harlan Feeman's office to prevent the junior class from receiving it at graduation. Young men were seen tearing up Madison Street with the Shepherd's Crook, its ribbons streaming behind. To restore the stature of the cane, it was carefully protected in 1921. At graduation, Senior Class President Grace Wells Haviland led her class to the Mound for an outdoor Cane Ceremony. Although the site of the ceremony has been moved on occasion, the tradition continues today.
The same Shepherd's Crook, now flowing with more than one hundred colorful class ribbons, is today passed from senior class president to junior class president during the Cane Ceremony following commencement. At other times, the Shepherd's Crook is housed in the Frank W. Stephenson Alumni Center in North Hall.
Members of the Class of 1987 have researched the history of the Shepherd's Crook and the Cane Ceremony with the assistance of Mrs. Grace Wells Haviland '21, Dr. A. Douglas MacNaughton '34, and the Adrian College Alumni Office. The Class of 1987 hereby dedicates this marker to honor and document the Cane Ceremony.
Will Cairns describes the tradition on his drawing in these words:
"So in like manner - rainbow hued
From hand to hand
From they who go
To they who carry on.
Their Symbol passes - here - upon these sacred heights
Before a heart thrilled multitude."
May 3, 1987