Most students see this magnificent robe once, and once only, during their lifetime – on convocation day when the president is transformed from business-suit proper to historic splendour.
Almost all ceremonial garb at universities in the Western World is fashioned on the design of a turn-of-the-century robe worn by the Lord High Chancellor of London, England, President of the House of Lords. This one, created in 1985 by a cutter, a dressmaker, a hand-finisher, a presser and many embroiderers, weighs a hefty 20 pounds and would cost more than $15,000 today. Made of silk damask in U of T blue, it is trimmed with 31 silver ornaments that were handcrafted in India – gold accessories are reserved for the university chancellor’s robe. To thousands of graduands, the donning of this garment by their president has symbolized the end of long years of study and sacrifice. Years later, it is a reminder of that long-ago day when the president spoke to them and their proud mothers, fathers and grandparents, ending forever an important chapter of their lives with the words: Well done, good luck, farewell.
A U of T lab is working with actors, writers and directors on how they could harness AI and other emerging technologies to generate new ideas and – just maybe – reinvent theatre