The University of Arkansas has enabled students to obtain a class ring since the 1970s, but it wasn’t a standardized tradition until about 2002, according to Ryan Miller, assistant director for student and young alumni programs at the Arkansas Alumni Association.
Class rings were presented to students who graduated in the fall of 2013 at the traditional ring ceremony on Dec. 19, 2013. The ceremony was hosted by the Arkansas Alumni Association at Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House.
“The ring ceremony is a great way to end off a college career,” Miller said. “It’s a symbolic representation of the end of the college experience and a way to be forever tied back to the university–to physically wear the connection to the campus.”
The ceremony opened with a short speech from the association’s executive director, Graham Stewart. He said, “When you walk away from here today, you can share your pride and share the stories affiliated with the ring.”
After the speech, Stewart presented rings to the graduates-to-be while Miller announced their names.
The class ring symbolizes the goals achieved by graduates of the University of Arkansas and the tradition of “fostering loyalty, pride and recognition among graduates and alumni,” according to the University of Arkansas’ website. “The official ring’s symbolism emphasizes the common bond and shared experience of all University of Arkansas graduates.”
In previous years, graduating students had the option of customizing class rings, adding different symbols and words. In 2002, the current class ring was officiated. “I wouldn’t say it’s a young tradition; it’s an old tradition that’s been reborn,” Miller said.
Class ring recipient Michael Thurmond, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in agricultural economics and agricultural business said, “It means a lot to me. It shows I went to the University of Arkansas and that I am proud of that. It’s always important to show where you come from; it’s very prestigious to go to the University of Arkansas. I’m the first of my family to graduate college, so for me it’s a big deal to show that I’ve been here and done it.”
Heath Bowman, associate director of regional programs for the Alumni Association, said, “The ring ceremony is important because it emphasizes one of our most well-known traditions which is the class ring; it gives us the chance to talk with students and their families before they leave campus as a graduate.”
Bowman said he got his ring to support and grow the young university tradition. “It also creates a community outside, away from campus that you can identify with, it’s a unique identifier,” he said.
Clinton Mash graduated with a Master of Science in environmental engineering and said, “I’m hopefully done with my university career here, for at least a while, but it was also a big thing for my dad. He said ‘man, you have got to get a ring–it’s a tradition, it’s something you have to do.’ He was right.”