UMBC’s first graduation ceremonies occurred on June 7, 1970. Diane Juknelis, a student receiving a B.A. in political science, spoke about the new campus "making its mark" as a "new, innovative, young, and strong" school. "The present class of graduates is the first in a long line of innovators who are not to be considered products of UMBC, but rather constant producers of all that gives it character and quality. The campus, ever-growing and changing, will bear the indelible imprint of those who participated in its all-important first step on a course untried."
Students celebrate graduation in 1986. The Gamma Pi chapter of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority was established at UMBC in 1979.
A woman celebrates graduation with a man and young child, circa 1994-1996. After continuous setbacks since the late 1970s, the Daycare Center at UMBC finally opened in September 1993, making it easier for mothers with children to attend classes.
Commencement at UMBC is a celebratory yet traditional affair. The faculty wear regalia denoting their academic field and graduate school, campus administrators and student leaders are on hand to offer inspiration and congratulations, and honorary degrees are awarded to notable men and women. Other traditional and frequently overlooked elements of commencement are the ceremonial batons and mace. These short wooden staffs are decorated with metal emblems and are carried by campus leaders that represent the students, staff, and faculty at UMBC. These representatives, or marshals, are traditionally the current Presidential Teaching Professor, representing the student community; the current Presidential Research Professor, representing the faculty; and the current Presidential Distinguished Staff members representing both Professional and Non-Exempt staff at UMBC. The mace, similar to the batons but a little larger, is carried by the Grand Marshal, typically the President of the Faculty Senate. The current mace was a gift from the Alumni Association in 1986 in honor of the 20th anniversary; similarly, the batons were gifts of the Alumni Association in 2006 in honor of the 40th anniversary. Before 2006, staff in the University Relations department designed and built the batons in-house.