From the time of the University of British Columbia’s first Congregation, a Ceremonies Committee was appointed from faculty by the President to assist in staging the event. The committee chairman supervised the Congregation activities while other ceremonial activities were handled by ad hoc committees. In that the ceremonial functions of the University fell primarily within the mandate of the Chancellor, the committee worked closely with both him and the latest President.
The Ceremonies Office evolved slowly beginning with the arrival of Sir Ouvry Roberts in the President’s Office. He began as Director of Traffic and, in the early 1960s, gradually assumed responsibility for staging the public functions of the University. The Ceremonies Office was first located in the Wireless Station. Malcolm McGregor replaced Roberts as Director of Ceremonies in 1968. The Office moved to the Old Administration Building in the late 1960s and assumed responsibility for staging the public functions of the University.
McGregor characterized the role of the Office as the “University on parade”. Over the years, the Ceremonies Office has coordinated many special luncheons, receptions and dinners; hosted royalty and other special visitors to the campus and directed Congregations (the graduation ceremonies).
In 1977, Dr. Benjamin N. Moyls succeeded McGregor as Director of Ceremonies. Moyls was, in turn, succeeded by Dr. John K. Stager (1985-1990) and then Dr. Charles E. Slonecker (1990-2003). Following the retirement of Dr. Slonecker, the office was restructured to meet the daily administrative demands.
In 2004, Eilis Courtney took over as Director of Ceremonies, the first woman and the first non-academic in this role. The academic responsibilities became the role of the University Marshal, a newly-titled part-time position within the office and Ms. Nancy Hermiston, Professor of the UBC School of Music and Director of the Voice and Opera program, was hired for this prestigious job.
In 2005, UBC Okanagan opened and the UBC Okanagan Ceremonies & Events office was created, with similar responsibilities for the Kelowna campus.
The Vancouver office has a staff of 9 full-time and 2 part-time employees, who coordinate twenty-eight Spring Congregation ceremonies, eight Fall Congregation ceremonies and over one hundred other events throughout the year; as well as the Summer Campus Tour Program and the annual United Way campaign.