It's Good to Be a Patriot
Traditions Committee gives young university some history
By Megan McDonnell and Colleen Kearney Rich, MFA '95
There is no better time to be a patriot—or to graduate from George Mason University. Although George Mason may be a young university, it still has traditions, thanks to the Traditions Committee, started in 2000 by Karen Rosenblum, vice president for university life. The committee, composed of faculty, staff, students, and alumni, meets once a month to discuss current traditions and how to improve or create new traditions.
One of the more recent examples of the committee's work includes the addition of the words “cum laude,” “magna cum laude,” and “summa cum laude” to the university diplomas, replacing the formerly used “distinction,” “high distinction,” and “highest distinction.” These phrases are reserved for those students who have a GPA of 3.50 or higher on a 4.00 scale. Students who achieve this level are also allowed to wear honor cords with their gown. Another change in graduation traditions has involved exchanging the old black gowns for “Mason green” gowns, which could be purchased at the bookstore for the first time this year.
Other new traditions being kicked off this year include a senior brunch, where soon-to-be alumni are served by faculty and administrators; a senior donor party; and a grub crawl that includes visits to several favorite Fairfax restaurants. Last year was the first year that the graduating class assembled near the statue of George Mason on the North Plaza and marched to the Patriot Center for the Commencement ceremony.
The committee also played a role in the creation of a school ring. The official George Mason ring includes the university seal on one side and the statue of George Mason with a background of the Johnson Center on the other. Surrounding the stone are the words “George Mason University, Virginia.” ArtCarved began selling the ring in 2002, and it, too, can be purchased through the bookstore.
When the newly formed Traditions Committee found that Mason had three unofficial songs posing as the alma mater, or school song, a contest was put forward. “Patriot's Dream” was named the university's official song in 2002. Carol Boyd Leon wrote the winning music and lyrics, and the song is now performed at Commencement and other important university events, such as the annual University Day.