The word convocation is taken from the Latin words com (meaning together) and vocare (to call). In an academic setting, a convocation is a time for the university community to gather and officially usher in the academic year and to celebrate achievements across the campus. Academic and service honorees, selected by their peers, wear robes and caps befitting the formal tone of the occasion, as would professors during commencement ceremonies.
At Maryland, convocations were held during President Wilson H. Elkins' term (1954–1978), and perhaps before his time. It is not clear why and when they ceased. Chancellor John B. Slaughter, however, reinstated convocations in 1983 with a focus on faculty and staff accomplishments.