Was It Really Sheepskin?
March 18th, 2020
On the west wall of the Mather Homestead attic, there is a nondescript four-drawer chest. The three lower drawers are lined with old newspaper but otherwise empty.
The top drawer contains one item rolled in brown wrapping paper, a cardboard box, and two flat items, also wrapped in brown paper.
Unrolled and unwrapped, the first item is Stephen Tyng Mather’s diploma from the University of California, Berkeley, on 29 June 1887. And yes, it is on sheepskin!
Within the box are two ceremonial hoods from honorary graduation processions. The blue and gold is from the University of California and the buff and blue from George Washington University.
The two remaining items are the honorary Doctor of Law degrees (L.L.D.) awarded to Stephen Mather. The degree from George Washington University was awarded 8 June 1921. The degree from the University of California was awarded 22 March 1924. The dedication on the latter degree in part reads
“…Bestowed upon Stephen Tyng Mather the Degree of Doctor of Laws: Mountaineer and Statesman, Lover of Nature and of his Fellow-men, with generous and farseeing wisdom he has made accessible for a multitude of Americans their great heritage of snowcapped mountains, of glaciers and streams and falls, of stately forests and quiet meadows…”
With attendance at America’s National Parks exceeding 300 million last year, that appreciation remains vibrant and prophetically true, now nearly a century later.
Stephen Tyng Mather's diploma from UC Berkely, 1887. Handwritten on sheepskin.
Ceremonial hoods from George Washington University (left) and UC Berkeley (right).