As one of her first acts as the new College Marshal, Lisa Trivedi cut bow ties out of brightly colored card stock. The fashion accessories were then distributed to students, staff, and faculty who paper-clipped them to their collars before greeting Steven Tepper, Hamilton’s president-elect, when he visited campus on Feb. 29.

Lisa Trivedi Christian A. Johnson Excellence in Teaching Professor of History Lisa Trivedi

Earlier Tepper had mentioned in a video announcing his appointment that he was partial to the neckwear, and Trivedi seized the opportunity to mark the occasion in a light-hearted way that would give everyone the chance to participate while making the president-to-be feel welcomed. 

Trivedi, the Christian A. Johnson Excellence in Teaching Professor of History, joined the faculty in 2000 and took over the role of College Marshal this academic year from Margaret Thickstun, the Jane Watson Irwin Professor of Literature. Although there’s no official job description — and craft-making skills are certainly not required — Thickstun says the ideal College Marshal should work well with others, care about ceremony, pay attention to detail, and remain poised in front of large crowds. 

“Lisa fits that description to a T,” she adds, “but, more importantly, I think she has the authority to scare everyone — faculty and students — into behaving.”

After leading the academic procession, the College Marshal uses the thump, thump, thump of her staff to open and close official College celebrations such as Convocation, Class & Charter Day, Commencement, and special events like presidential inaugurations. The role of College Marshal is three-fold: part master of ceremonies, part meticulous event planner, and part facilitator — someone who connects people and builds community. 

It’s that last duty that most entices Trivedi. “I’m both excited and honored to step into this role, one that is so different from what most of us experience as academics,” she says. “We are teachers, we have our scholarship, and serve on faculty committees, but it’s unusual to have the opportunity to shape how we mark accomplishments and celebrate transitions.” 

As she gears up for her first Commencement as marshal, Trivedi is especially sensitive to this year’s senior class, whose members completed high school in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

“Many of the students graduating this year had no high school graduation ceremony, no prom. Many of them didn’t have the chance to visit college before they enrolled … I hope to use the role of College Marshal to help our community move past that.”

“Many of the students graduating this year had no high school graduation ceremony, no prom,” Trivedi says. “Many of them didn’t have the chance to visit college before they enrolled and then were faced with a hybrid semester once they got here, further dislocating an already fractured community.”

She also thinks of her colleagues on the faculty who didn’t have the opportunity to be officially hooded upon earning their Ph.D.s.

“I hope to use the role of College Marshal to help our community move past that,” she adds. “We need more rituals in our lives, more to tether us to one another.”

The importance of ritual was instilled in Trivedi from an early age by her family, which immigrated from India. She is proud to serve Hamilton as the daughter of immigrants and, as a historian, she appreciates the value of carrying on traditions.

What’s her biggest worry going into Commencement? “I hope I don’t trip,” Trivedi says with a laugh. “I’m a fairly clumsy person by nature, and I really want David Wippman’s last Commencement to be special.”

The Job Description

The College Marshal tradition presumably goes back to the earliest official Hamilton ceremonies. After all, someone had to take charge to ensure that the proceedings were conducted with dignity and minimal confusion.

As early as 1940, issues of the Alumni Review make mention of marshals at specific events, but it isn’t until 1967 that the first College Marshal is noted in a Commencement program: Professor of German Thomas Colby ’42. 

While the College Marshal does represent the public face of the College at major events, most duties happen behind the scenes. Take Commencement, for example. Early that morning, the College Marshal goes to the Field House to adjust the chairs so that there are clear open lines between the boxes of canes and the “X” where the president will stand.

Then, the College Marshal coordinates the work of two or three faculty marshals — who have been appointed in advance — to make sure that all faculty members are organized into two straight lines of roughly even length. During the ceremony, the College Marshal assists with the hooding of honorary degree candidates, the handing out of canes, and the collection of any green apples that students present in commemoration of Kirkland College.

In the weeks leading up to the event, the College Marshal sends messages to current and emeriti faculty alerting them when and where to show up, what they are expected to wear, how to obtain parking passes, etc. The marshal consults with such details as changes to the Commencement program, music, and even whether or not to have the full assembly sing. Other duties include advising the president and trustees about possible honorary degree candidates, attending Commencement planning meetings, and participating ex-officio in deliberations of the student committee that selects a class speaker.

Like the saying goes, the College Marshal carries a big stick … but does not always speak softly. During Senior Week the marshal attends a mandatory all-class meeting to strongly advise students about the importance of reporting on time to line up on Commencement morning. The marshal also provides instructions to the candidates for honorary degrees both at a dinner the evening before and at a breakfast the morning of Commencement. The College Marshal receives free meals at those two events — the only compensation the job offers.

The College Marshal may serve in the role as long as he or she wishes and will typically pass the torch near retirement. Margie Thickstun has stepped down prior her retirement from the faculty, which suits Lisa Trivedi just fine: “I’m only doing this because she’s helping me with the transition.”

The College Marshal Staff

Two official staffs have been used by Hamilton’s College Marshals over the years. 

When Professor of Economics Sid Wertimer retired as marshal in 1991, Hamilton gifted him the original staff (shown above), made from a banister rail with a doorknob affixed to its end. This staff had been used by Thomas Colby ’42, the first College Marshal.

Wertimer soon passed the staff along to Professor of English John O’Neill when he became marshal. Upon O’Neill’s retirement, President Joan Stewart presented him the staff with an inscription that reads: “John H. O’Neill, Hamilton College Marshal, 1996-2008. With gratitude for his years of service.” Last summer he gifted the original staff back to Hamilton where it is held in College Archives.

Fun fact: During her tenure as College Marshal, Professor of Theatre Carole Bellini-Sharp added some flair by adorning the staff with colorful ribbons. A new staff was made for Margie Thickstun when she took over as marshal in 2010. Although larger, this staff is similar to the canes presented to new graduates at Commencement. It features a Continental tricorn hat in honor of Baron von Steuben, drillmaster of Washington’s Continental Army who laid the cornerstone of the Hamilton-Oneida Academy.

New College Marshal Lisa Trivedi will continue to use this staff although, like Bellini-Sharp, she plans to add some decorations.

“My hope is to bring a little bit of life to these celebrations,” Trivedi says. “I take them seriously, and I’m hoping to take the opportunity to make them more joyful.”

College Marshals Throughout the Years

2023 - Present

Lisa Trivedi, Professor of History



Margaret Thickstun, professor of literature and creative writing



John O’Neill, professor of English



Carole Bellini-Sharp, professor of theatre



Leland “Bud” Cratty, Jr., professor of chemistry



Sidney Wertimer, Jr., professor of economics



Russell T. Blackwood, professor of philosophy



Thomas E. Colby ’42, professor of German


Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

Site Search