The Academic Tradition

The gowns and hoods worn by the graduates, faculty, staff and trustees have their roots in medieval religious garb. The gown is an adaptation of the priest's robe, and the hood resembles the monk's cowl. Academic attire began to appear on campuses in the United States in the late 1890s and has since become customary for official college functions.
The Gown
Each degree has its own gown style. The gown worn by bachelor's degree recipients is a yoked, closed-front garment with long, pointed sleeves. The gown worn by master's degree recipients can be worn either open or closed. Its sleeves are long and slit just above the elbow to allow the forearm to protrude. The gown worn by doctorate degree recipients also can be worn either open or closed, has full, bell-shaped sleeves, and, unlike the other styles, is trimmed with velvet panels down the front and three velvet bars on each sleeve.
The Hood
Each degree also has its own hood style. The bachelor's degree graduate's hood is three feet long; the master's graduate's is three and one-half feet; the doctorate graduate's is four feet long with wide panels on either side. The color or colors of the hood's lining are those of the institution granting the degree. Aquinas graduates have silver and maroon hoods. The colored velvet binding or edging of the hood--in different widths according to degree - indicates the area of study as follows: dark blue for philosophy, light blue for education, white for arts and letters, yellow for sciences, orange for engineering, brown for business, and scarlet for theology.
Honor Cords
Bachelor's degree candidates graduating with honors will wear special honor cords around the neck. A silver cord indicates Cum Laude, a maroon cord indicates Magna Cum Laude, and both silver and maroon cords indicate Summa Cum Laude.