Each fall at the Homecoming football game, thousands of fans watch in mystified amusement as a herd of students rushes across the football field carrying canes. The mystery deepens when the group reaches the south goalpost and the canes are thrown into the air. Some of the fans may have heard an announcement that the students are Law School seniors and that tradition holds that, if they catch their canes, they will win their first cases. But even those fans have little or no idea of the origin of this somewhat unusual tradition.
In fact, the origin seems lost in the mists of time. Most believe that it began with the arrival of the now-legendary Professor William Herbert Page from Ohio State University Law School during World War I. Some research suggests that a cane parade tradition may have existed at Ohio and was simply transplanted here. In the centennial history of the UW Law School written in 1968 by Scott Van Alstyne (68 Wis. L.R 329), Page denies that he had anything to do with the origin of the parade. He suggested that it already existed here when he arrived.
Regardless, the cane parade, now known as the Cane Toss, and Herbie Page became inseparably linked during the 1930s. In the early years, the entire Law faculty accompanied the senior class and the parade took place between halves of the game. By the 1930s, the class voted on a faculty escort, an election regularly won by Professor Page!
By the time George Young became dean in 1958, custom dictated that the dean should lead the parade. Each dean has established particular ground rules for the parade. Cliff Thompson may have been responsible for a modification of the old tradition: it is now said that if the cane hangs up on the crossbar, the senior's first case will be settled to the satisfaction of both sides!
All third-year students are encouraged to participate in this event. See also the Cane Toss section of Lore.
Each fall, the faculty, staff, and students of the schools of Law and Medicine face off in a series of competitive events. The goal is to score the most points and take the Dean’s Cup. The Dean's Cup at Wisconsin owes its beginning to several students on spring break in Florida in 1995. Tim Stewart '97 liked the idea of a "friendly" competition but added a charitable intent. The first competition was held in the fall of 1995 and, with a great deal of work, yielded about $1,000 for local charities.
Each spring, current students organize the Legal Education Opportunity (LEO) banquet, an event to honor and celebrate diversity at the Law School. LEO alumni join with current students, faculty and friends to hear a noted speaker and to present awards. As the number of LEO program students and alumni has increased, this banquet has become one of the Law School’s largest and most impressive celebrations. Sponsorship of the event rotates between the Asian Law Students Association (ALSA), the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), the Indigenous Law Students Association (ILSA), the Latino/a Law Students Association (LLSA) and the Middle Eastern Law Students Association (MELSA). All students, faculty, staff, and community members are welcome at the LEO Banquet.
University of Wisconsin commencement events are designed to honor graduates and their families and to celebrate graduates' accomplishments. There are two ceremonies held for UW Law School graduates. The University of Wisconsin Law School Hooding Ceremony is often held on the Friday of UW-Madison Commencement Weekend at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. This special event is exclusively for UW Law School graduates and their guests.
The UW-Madison Spring Commencement Ceremony is held on Saturday of Commencement Weekend at Camp Randall Stadium. Degree candidates honored at the Camp Randall Ceremony include those receiving bachelor, most masters, and law degrees.
Any student who graduates in December or August may choose to participate in the May ceremonies also.
For the most pertinent information regarding future graduations, please check the Law School's Commencement webpage.