Chief Marshal (University of Michigan) Records

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Chief Marshal (University of Michigan) records

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Chief Marshal (University of Michigan) record group held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

The Chief Marshal of the University is the individual responsible for planning and participating in both official and ceremonial University events, including commencement ceremonies. The position began around 1883 and is usually filled by a member of the University faculty. The Chief Marshal records primarily include correspondence, floor plans, commencement programs, and planning materials related to university commencement exercises from 1914 to the present.

While the Chief Marshal's main tasks revolve around planning commencement ceremonies at the University of Michigan, he is also a key figure and "trouble shooter" in many official and ceremonial university events besides commencement. The role of Chief Marshal has most frequently been filled by a member of the University faculty. The current Chief Marshal was appointed by the Provost and works with the University Office of Development and Events. The earliest known Chief Marshal, originally called the "Grand Marshal," was Major Harrison Soule in 1883. Soule was the Treasurer of the University, and a Civil War veteran. His military bearing and impressive uniform while leading the faculty and graduates during the commencement ceremonies evidently set a high precedent for the Chief Marshal position. Although the Chief Marshal led the procession it seems that, at first, any changes in the commencement ceremony had to be approved by the current President of the University before they could be implemented. By 1931 the Chief Marshal responsibilities included much greater participation in orchestrating the time schedules and managing the many details involved with planning commencement ceremonies. Some of those responsibilities were shared with the Assistant Secretary of the University. As the University of Michigan has grown in size, so have the commencement ceremonies grown in complexity. The Chief Marshal Records reveal the diverse aspects of conducting large commencements, from planning for bad weather to determining the seating arrangements and ordering of the hundreds of graduates.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

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  • University of Michigan, Chief Marshal (2017)

    Access restricted; see individual files Zip file (8.7KB) Video file (3.5GB) Zip file (3.8GB)

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