SOUTH BEND - The University of Notre Dame is putting its sheepskin diplomas out to pasture.
Starting in January, all diplomas issued to graduates will be paper rather than the sheepskin ones that have been traditional at the university for a least a century.
There are two reasons.
First, more students in recent years have been requesting paper diplomas because of animal welfare concerns. And secondly, the company that printed Notre Dame’s diplomas is getting out of the sheepskin business.
Notre Dame’s sheepskin diplomas were provided by Herff Jones Co., one of few remaining vendors that still offered that variety, Associate University Registrar Chuck Hurley said.
The company recently notified Notre Dame, its largest sheepskin diploma customer, that sheepskin no longer will be offered.
Only four other schools still bought sheepskin diplomas from Herff Jones: Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind.; The Citadel, in Charleston, S.C.; Hampden-Sydney College, in Hampden-Sydney, Va.; and Episcopal High School, in Alexandria, Va., Hurley said.
Most other colleges provide diplomas printed on high-quality paper with art-quality printers. That’s what Notre Dame now will do, printing the documents in Grace Hall on campus.
A close examination of high quality paper and sheepskin would show a difference, but it would be challenging, Hurley said. “Sheepskin has more of a translucent quality to it because it’s made from animal skin,” he said.
Notre Dame bachelor’s degree recipients have mostly received sheepskin diplomas since at least the early 1900. There were some years - such as during World War I and II - that paper diplomas had to be issued, because the sheepskin came from Europe and wasn’t available during the wars, Hurley said.
Since the late 1960s, the bachelor’s degree diplomas have been exclusively sheepskin - unless a graduating student specifically requested a paper diploma, Hurley said.
About 3,000 bachelor’s degree diplomas are issued each year. When Hurley started on the job 16 years ago, one or two graduates a year requested paper diplomas. In recent years, the number of graduates requesting paper has risen to about 200 a year, he said.
Curiously, Notre Dame Law School diplomas always have been paper, Hurley said. He’s not sure why.
Each year, a few graduates contact the university to request replacements for lost or damaged diplomas. The registrar’s office has a small supply of sheepskin diplomas with the signatures of previous university presidents (depending on when the student graduated) and can provide replacements, Hurley said.
Other than those, all future diplomas issued will be paper.
Staff writer Margaret Fosmoe: