The Sunset Ceremony during William & Mary's Homecoming weekend dates to the early 20th century.
On March 20, 1926, it was resolved that the Virginia Alpha of the Phi Beta Kappa take special notice every commencement of the anniversary of the death of Colonel Benjamin S. Ewell (6/19/1894), that a eulogy be delivered and flowers be placed upon his grave. [1982.29 PBK Minutes Box 1 of 14] Ewell is buried in the College Cemetery.
According to the Virginia Gazette, May 16,1930, the memorial service took place on "Alumni Day" which occurred during Commencement in the spring. The Alpha members, alumni, and graduating class gathered at Ewell's grave for an oration and wreath laying.
According to A Paschall Portrait [LD6051 .W518 P37 1993] when the society ceased to meet at Commencement this tradion lapsed until it was revived at Paschall's inaugural ceremony in October, 1961 when it became known as the "Sunset Parade". A roster of alumni deceased during the past year was read.
Data from Homecoming schedules in the University Archives:
1929-1959 No Sunset Ceremony/Parade listed on schedules
1961-1965 According to Homecoming schedules found in University Archives Homecoming Publications File, a "Sunset Parade" and Memorial Service was held during Autumn Homecoming Weekend on Friday about 5PM in the Sunken Garden.
1966 No parade or memorial service listed on schedule.
1967 "Sunset Parade" was held. No Memorial Service was listed on the schedule
1968 no programs available
1969-1975 "Sunset Parade" was held but no Memorial Service was listed on the schedule.
1976 This is the first time the name "Sunset Ceremony - Memorial Service" is used in the events schedule. It was held in the Wren Building Courtyard on Friday at 5PM. Prior to this date the service was held in the Sunken Garden.
1977-2006 (present) "Sunset Ceremony" held around 5PM on Friday of Homecoming Weekend. A pamphlet of speakers and Roster of the Dead is available for some years.
- SCRC File.