Decades apart, two Owls share aspirations—and a gown
A 1975 College of Education alumna bequeathed her graduation regalia. A doctoral student will wear it this week.
It is long and billowy and that striking red that is identifiably cherry. A soft, black velour panel runs down the doctoral robe from neck to ankle, with three complementary bars adorning each arm. The baby blue hood rests against the neck and cascades down the back like a cool wave.
Inside the gown, a large tag identifies the maker as Cotrell and Leonard, of Albany, New York, established 1832. Three gold script letters identify its owner as “KMK.”
While a graduation gown is ubiquitous, it is at the same time distinctive and rich with decorum; one of many, yet charged with novelty in the eyes of its owner. It is representative of perseverance, of achievements, of dreams—timeless ideas, really.
So this particular gown was for Kathleen M. Kies, EDU ’75.
When Kies received her doctorate from the College of Education’s Department of Psychoeducational Process, wearing the customized Temple gown and her thick-framed glasses, she had already spent years teaching around the world and was beginning to leave her stamp on the higher education landscape.
In the decades that followed, the robe became a trusted and suitable choice for multiple college inaugurals and graduations. All told, she donned the graduation attire more than a dozen times.
Then, on an early April day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kies packed the cherished regalia into a nondescript box, slipped in a note and sent it back to where she first wore it.
Kathleen Kies wearing the doctoral regalia for her 1975 Commencement.
“I am now 87 years old, and it is doubtful that I will ever wear these robes again,” the letter begins. “Therefore, I would like to bequeath them to the College of Education, so that some deserving graduate who is unable to purchase his or her own robes can use them.”
It continues: “I would ask that the recipients remember me in prayer, as I am now diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, and can use a lot of prayer.”
The package first landed at the college’s Office of Enrollment Management before being transferred to Sofia Bermudez, the school’s coordinator for career and student development and special events.
“We were all in shock,” Bermudez said. “We were just trying to wrap our heads around that.”
No one in the office had ever received such a gift, Bermudez noted, and the team was moved to honor the alumna’s request quickly.
With weeks to go before Commencement, Bermudez and Doreen Conway, the school’s assistant director of graduate academic and student affairs, turned to a graduation program in hopes of identifying a candidate to receive the regalia.