Wabash College: Founded November 21, 1832, in Crawfordsville, Indiana, a frontier town
Diploma: Made from sheepskin and written in Latin with handwritten calligraphy
Gender: 100% male, one of three remaining traditional, all-male liberal arts colleges in the country
Sheepskin diplomas are not prevalent at all, although they once were. Yet, for Wabash College in Indiana, the tradition of giving sheepskin diplomas to its graduates continues. This coming May will be no exception. The school also carries on its tradition as an all-male college.
The fact that sheepskin diplomas are handed out to Wabash College graduates is a notable fact and usually brought up in press releases, YouTube videos, and college information about commencement.
Not only is the college’s sheepskin diploma unique but so is the calligraphy. The names of each graduate and Honors are handwritten. Presently, the calligrapher, Kendy Cummings, has been doing the decorative lettering for several years. Previously, for 27 years until May 2008, Vina Mikesell, the wife of a now-retired Political Science professor, did the calligraphy. Before that, a man from Indianapolis had been “doing the diplomas for many years,” but he retired.
Handling and care information from the college about sheepskin diplomas states that diplomas need to be treated as fine art originals. When framing your Wabash College sheepskin diploma, it should be protected “using conservation- quality backing board and mounting materials that are acid-free, lignin-free, and reversible.”
The Registrar’s Office makes it clear that because the college gives graduates original Latin sheepskin diplomas, it does not issue duplicate diplomas. Yet, on the “rare occasion of damage to the original diploma, the College will replace the original, upon written request from the graduate, with a handwritten signature and the return of the damaged original.” There is also a replacement fee.
In the Past
According to an article in the The Washington Post archives, the sheepskin diploma “originated in the Middle Ages, when traveling scholars used to haul it around as proof of their education. That was the beginning of the credentials society.” The benefit of a sheepskin document was that it could be rolled and unrolled time and again without fear of breakage.
Framed with Care
The Wabash College Bookstore located at 301 West Wabash Avenue in Crawfordsville, Indiana, is a partner with Church Hill Classics and a great source to contact about our USA-made, conservation-quality diploma frames. Frames can be purchased in the store or on the Wabash College Bookstore website.
“The sheepskin diplomas are larger than most and require a special size mat,” notes Suzanne Zadai, Business Auxiliaries Assistant at Wabash College Bookstore. “Each Church Hill Classics frame comes with easy, do-it-yourself instructions. Our customers love the fact that Church Hill frames are specially made to fit the diploma and that they can have the diploma framed and ready to go very easily.”
Diploma frames also can be customized with a choice of frame mouldings, matting, and glass upgrades on the store’s page on diplomaframe.com. Also available are photo frames and desk accessories.
There are other traditions at Wabash College, such as Big Bash Reunion, Chapel Sing,and Homecoming, but one is quite unique. It’s upholding an age-old tradition of conferring on graduates a sheepskin diploma, written in Latin with handwritten calligraphy. It’s one tradition that hardly any other colleges can say they do any more.