University of Scranton Introduces New Tradition at 2017 Commencement

May 23, 2017

The University of Scranton will begin a new tradition at its graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies this year. Each graduate will be presented with a Coin of Excellence by Scranton’s Alumni Society to signify their accomplishment in earning their degree and their new stature as an alumnus of Scranton.

The new tradition at Scranton was inspired by a military custom that dates back to the Roman Empire, when solders were given coins in recognition of valor in battle. The use of the coins in the U.S. military trace back to World War I and II and were used to show membership within a unit, as well as to recognize individual accomplishment. The coins became commonly called “unit coins” or “commander coins,” because unit commanders were responsible for the coin’s design and distribution. The tradition has continued and expanded through the years, with several U.S. Presidents issuing coins to mark affinity or an accomplishment.

The president of Scranton’s Alumni Society, Col. Richard H. Breen, Jr. ’77 (U.S. Army, Ret.), lobbied for Scranton to start the tradition with its graduates.

“The intent in presenting The University of Scranton Coin of Excellence to our graduates is to welcome them into the alumni society, provide a symbol of camaraderie as a graduating class, and to recognize the hard work the students have put forth in earning their degrees,” said Col. Breen, who has kept and presented coins for the various units he commanded during his distinguished career in the military.

Coins typically include an engraved insignia or marking of the organization of assignment and often include a word or phase that embodies that regiment or unit. The University’s coins are marked with the Scranton “S” on one side and its seal on the other. The seal is surrounded by the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, “Go forth and set the world on fire.”

“The coins are also meant to encourage graduates to follow the Jesuit tradition to be ‘men and women for and with others’ and to ‘go forth and set the world on fire,’” said Col. Breen.

In a well-established tradition, the University already presents each student with a Scranton pin at its convocation when they begin their college career. The Coin of Excellence will now be presented at commencement to commemorate the recipient as a member of the Scranton family forever.

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