Friday, December 2 2022

As the calendar turns to March, many people on the CU Boulder campus are starting to think about the end of the spring semester. That means finals, summer vacation, internships. For some, it also means graduation.

There’s nothing quite like showing up in front of thousands of people on a bright, beautiful, sunny Colorado day.
–Bud Coleman

And for Bud Coleman, CU Boulder’s early marshal, that means the critical moment has arrived. Coleman, who took on the role of debut marshal in 2018 from Jim Williams, relishes his role as the campus-wide debut ceremony leader.

A professor in the theater and dance department at CU Boulder, Coleman is no stranger to having a starring role. Trained as an actor and dancer, he has performed in front of a large audience. But, he says, there is something magical about leading a ceremony that brings such joy to all involved. Coleman took the time to speak with CU Boulder Today about his role as a debut marshal and share his insights into all things debuting.

Lead the ceremony

There’s nothing quite like stepping out in front of thousands of people on a beautiful, sunny Colorado day. I actually get nervous, but I’ve been telling myself for years that if I get to the point where I’m in front of an audience and I’m not nervous, then it’s time to quit. Nervous just means I care and will channel that energy into a positive presence for the people who are there. In fact, I like nervousness.

The role of the marshal

My role as debut marshal takes place mostly behind the scenes, until the day of the ceremony. I work with a committee to help plan the main ceremony, but there are also 62 recognition ceremonies, there are other affinity group ceremonies. When it comes to organizing all these events, there is no dress rehearsal. You have to hit it absolutely right from the start, and that takes a lot of planning.

For graduating students reading this, you recently received a email from me with a checklist of some of the things you need to do to be ready for the Opening Ceremony. So I’m involved in a lot of planning in a lot of different areas on campus. It’s real teamwork.

2018 opening procession

2018 opening procession

Time as early marshal

On this campus, the word marshal and Jim Williams were synonymous. Jim was Marshal for 27 years before retiring in 2017. Several years ago the Chancellor approached me to replace Jim when he retired. I appreciated the Chancellor’s confidence in me and accepted.

My freshman year was in 2018, and it was a perfect day in Colorado. The following year it snowed. Then, of course, we had to go virtual in 2020 and 2021, so I’m beyond thrilled that all of our graduates and their families can return to Folsom Field in 2022 to resume our in-person launch ceremony.

The best moments of the day of the ceremony

Seeing the students on the quad as we rally by schools and colleges is one of my favorite things. Doing the procession to the stadium, where you can feel the excitement among the students as we march towards Folsom, is another highlight for me. For many students, this will be their first time on the pitch, even though they have been attending football games for years.

Once everyone is seated, you see the sea of ​​graduate students on the field, and you look out into the stands and see their families and friends. Nothing is better than that.

The mass

There isn’t a direct origin story for mace, although its use dates back hundreds and hundreds of years. We have records indicating that in medieval times and certainly in the Renaissance, public assemblies began with someone striking a large staff to get the attention of those present. As the maces became more elaborate, the tradition of knocking them to the ground ceased and the use of the hammer began instead.

the The mace I use in the opening ceremony is a work of art, made of gold and silver and Colorado walnut. When not in use, we keep it in what we call the coffin, which is a rectangular box to store and protect it.

Academic hoods

True, the public will see the academic hoods, which are on the graduation gowns. Again, these have a history dating back to the Renaissance. Universities had been around for a while at that time, but that’s when things really started to be codified with individual specializations, instead of just having a university degree. And to differentiate these different centers of interest, someone had the idea hundreds of years ago to give different colors to different academic disciplines. This is why you will see a wide variety of hoods on academic gowns, as they reflect the academic discipline the person is from.


The dresses themselves are also quite varied. For example, you will see no bands for undergraduate students, two bands for masters students, and three bands for doctoral students. Some schools also have different colored gowns, so on the faculty side, you will see a whole range of gown colors representing the institution where they received their doctorate.

Norlin load

At the end of the ceremony, the Norlin load is read. I tear up every time. These words have been spoken at the University of Colorado Boulder’s commencement ceremony for decades, and I hope for students it’s a connection to the past.

Beginning means to begin, to look forward. And so I think one of the great things about the Norlin charge is asking graduates not just to think ahead, which of course we want them to do is the beginning after all, but at the same time, it’s great to recognize the richness of the past, those with whom we are now connected as alumni.

‘As you go forth, kindle your light…’ it means that you are part of the University of Colorado and the light that has been burning will continue to burn within you as you go forward.

Tips for graduates

Enjoy these last few months. It is a beautiful place. We are so lucky to be here. Take a moment to acknowledge that we are part of this continuum of students, faculty, and staff that make up CU Boulder, and what an honor it is to be part of this university community.

Faculty and staff: please join the ceremony

I absolutely encourage our faculty and staff to come for an hour and a half and experience the joy of seeing their work come to fruition. What they do helps our students, so the beginning is an opportunity for them to share the joy as well. The invitation is there. You are part of the CU Boulder family, come celebrate.


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