UBC's first Congregation ceremony took place on May 4, 1916 in the Hotel Vancouver ballroom. There were 41 graduates.
UBC's first graduate degrees were conferred in 1919. The first degrees in Agriculture were conferred in 1921. The first Bachelor of Applied Science in Nursing and Forestry degrees were awarded at the eighth Congregation in 1923.
UBC students now graduate from 12 faculties: Agricultural Sciences, Applied Science, Arts, Commerce and Business Administration, Dentistry, Education, Forestry, Graduate Studies, Law, Medicine, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Science.
Each year since 1919 the graduating class has planted a tree to mark Congregation. The class of '97 recently planted a tulip tree near the Thunderbird Residences.
The first Congregation ceremony on the present day campus was held in 1927.
The Ladner Clock Tower in front of Main Library houses a 330-bell carillon which is played during special occasions, including Congregation. The 40-metre tower was built in 1968 in memory of B.C. pioneers, especially members of the Ladner family who founded the town of the same name.
The wooden mace carried into the ceremonies and placed on stage symbolizes authority. It was designed by George Norris and First Nations artist Bill Reid and carved by Norris.
When graduating students are presented to the chancellor he or she says "I admit you," welcoming them to convocation, the body of graduates that elects the chancellor and some university senators.
More than 900 gowns are used for Congregation. They are often rented out to colleges and schools throughout B.C. Last year the UBC Bookstore sold 1,850 mortar boards, the square caps sometimes worn by graduates.
Hoods and gowns worn by graduates are lined with colours that indicate the degree to be conferred. Members of the Congregation processions wear colourful academic regalia from around the world signifying their university of graduation and highest degree awarded.
The gowns, hoods and mortarboards worn by graduating students evolved from clothes worn by European scholars in the Middle Ages.
UBC has presented more than 500 honorary degrees in its history. In 1958, John Diefenbaker, Lester Pearson and W.A.C. Bennett received degrees the same day. Other notable degree recipients: Pierre Trudeau, Louis St. Laurent, Joey Smallwood, Princess Margaret, Oscar Peterson, Ken Dryden, J.V. Clyne, Adlai Stevenson, Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, Robertson Davies, Tommy Douglas, Karen Kain, and Raymond Burr.
UBC alumni include Senator Pat Carney, former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt, journalists Allan Fotheringham and Joe Schlesinger, former prime ministers Kim Campbell and John Turner, opera singer Judith Forst, author Pierre Berton, and Rick Hansen, advocate for the disabled.
Enrolment during Winter Session of 1996-97 was 31,182 including undergraduate and graduate students. During the Winter Session there were 2,324 international students at UBC from 114 countries.