The commencement ceremony is perhaps the highlight of every college graduate. It is the culmination of many years of hard work concentrated into one moment of recognition and achievement and is a memory that stays with most students for the rest of their lives.

However, some students do not have the chance to participate due to logistics, cost, or error. With that thought in mind, Kathy Duncan organized a loaner program within the dairy science department at Virginia Tech. This program began six years ago and has been able to provide many graduating seniors with a no-cost option. 

“The reason we started the program was that we wanted to provide graduating students the opportunity to borrow a gown instead of having to buy one or move it back home,” said Kathy.  Additionally, the reuse of seldom used items also lines up with the university's sustainability efforts in reducing waste and pollution, making the program a 'win-win' situation.  

The plan relies on the generous donations of Virginia Tech alumni. The donated regalia provides graduating students with an alternative option, allowing them to participate in the ceremony when they may not otherwise have had the chance and/or to reduce their carbon footprint in a small way.  

The Stump family is a perfect example of one of the goals of this program. In 1984, Pam Stump graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in animal sciences, and her husband John Stump followed soon after in 1986.  All three of their daughters attended Virginia Tech, and in what became a treasured family tradition, each of the daughters wore the same cap and gown to the commencement ceremony. This continuation of a legacy from alumnus to a new graduate is one aspect that the loaner program is trying to emulate.  

The program started with just one or two alumni donating their gowns for the use of future graduates, but that number quickly grew to about ten.  The goal of the program is to increase the number of available loaner gowns, and extend it to include students in animal and poultry sciences, as well.

If you or someone you know would like to donate your cap and gown, please mail them to Kathy Duncan, 3697 Litton-Reaves Hall, 175 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061. Please contact Kathy at with any questions.


Article by: Noah Willis, Student Communications Assistant, APSC/DASC