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Just a piece of paper?

June 2, 2014

Diplomas have become the butt of many jokes.  And unless made of genuine sheepskin, most don’t seem to hold any intrinsic value at this point.  Rarely, unless issued by a medical or dental school, do they even end up hanging on a wall.  More likely, they are packed away in a closet (probably a parent’s).

But a Kirkland College diploma feels like a unique work of art.  Sam Babbitt tells us, in fact, that the class of 1971 chose an image by lithographer Don Cortese (see Limited Engagement, p.194) who taught printmaking at Syracuse University for many years.   Only 27 of these were issued, but where are they now?

We’d like to copy a diploma from every class, but here are a couple of designs that illustrate the inventive approaches that made even this most traditional of documents become another testament to the inventive spirit at Kirkland.  Where is yours?


A Charter Class diploma (the first “vintage”)

Kirkland College 1976 diploma of Jean McGavin

A 1976 diploma with artwork by Emily Paine

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2014 10:12 pm

    I have one of the earliest diplomas – it shows a woman peeking out from behind a curtain. I didn’t like it much, but the class voted for it….

    • June 2, 2014 10:18 pm

      We want to see! Were they done as a limited edition of original prints, do you know? We hope to contact the artist soon.

  2. Douglas Raybeck permalink
    June 3, 2014 9:17 am

    It would be great if the images of these diplomas could be collected and made available online.

  3. March 12, 2015 1:03 pm

    I recall that they were a limited edition, solely for the class of 1971. I have 1/27 someplace.

  4. October 8, 2016 9:15 pm

    The Celtic one was hand created by my suite-mate Emily Paine … not Payne.

  5. March 29, 2021 9:19 am

    My Uncle framed mine with a green frame that matched the Celtic one–Right now its packed up in storage as we’re doing some renovations. I have every intent of putting into my office as a member of the class of 1978

    • March 31, 2021 9:13 pm

      I hope it finds a place of honor! Mine has been hanging in our home studio, along with my husband’s from City College of New York, for some years now.

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