Official Ring Program Manual

The Official Ring Program Manual

Thank you for visiting. This site provides an online resource for our Official Ring partners. Our goal is to strengthen the tradition of the college ring and provide some insights of the benefits associated with adopting an Official Ring program. Balfour also sponsors workshops throughout the country where a community of administrators share methods for creating meaningful ring traditions on their campuses. Let us know if you have questions of your own at CollegeRings@balfour.com.

1. Making the Case for An Official Ring – An Executive Summary

There is a prevailing trend on campuses in our nation to cultivate a sense of tradition among its students and alumni. Schools with strong traditions enjoy higher student retention rates, volunteerism and donor participation than schools without such traditions. An official ring is a proud and visible symbol of the connection that students and alumni feel toward their alma mater. Our experience in developing official ring programs at hundreds of universities across the country can play a vital role helping an institution establish an official ring tradition among its constituents.Experience has shown us that the most successful Official Ring traditions involve the cooperation and commitment of the entire campus. Many of the most innovative ideas you see in our best practices originated from our partner institutions. Our goal is to win the approval and support of the students, the administration, the alumni association, student affairs, student government and the bookstore to build the most successful program possible. The end result is the opportunity for the institution to earn significant financial rewards and also valuable intangible benefits such as increased student and alumni affinity.

2. History of the College Ring Industry

At a select few universities, the ring has maintained its place as a cherished educational symbol, second only to the diploma itself. Schools, including Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Rice, Duke, Clemson and MIT have sustained their official ring traditions without interruption for the past seventy years, or more. Most colleges and universities, however, abandoned traditional programs years ago and lost nearly all of their ring participation.The decline began thirty years ago when ring companies began competing to offer the widest possible selection of customized rings. The purchaser could design the ring with a birthstone, field of study, fraternity/sorority letters, or even intramural sport logos. The desired affect was higher ring sales with the promise of a fully personalized ring. However, with each additional option, the meaning and symbolism of the school ring was diminished. Some say that this customization took the “school” out of the school ring. Students and alumni wanted a meaningful symbol of their college experience and instead they were offered personalized jewelry.Balfour seeks to restore official ring traditions on campuses that are eager to build stronger affinity among students and alumni. Our track record clearly demonstrates that a higher percentage of students choose to acquire the ring at schools with an official ring, and increased revenues are a natural benefit of this renewed emphasis on the tradition. This program yields excellent results because it purposefully incorporates the elements of the oldest and most successful ring programs in the country.

3. Fellowship of the Ring

By Megan Rooney, The Chronicle of Higher Education (5/3/2003)
Class rings are making a comeback, and the custom of one ring design for an entire class is leading the way. “We really wanted our ring to mean more,” says Katy Wimbush, the student-programs coordinator for the alumni association at the University of Georgia, which celebrated its first ring-presentation ceremony this semester. At Georgia, as at many institutions, anyone — even people who had never attended the university — once could design and order a ring from the campus bookstore. Now, students must have finished their junior year in order to buy a ring. “We decided the ring would have greater symbolism if everyone wore the same one and if there were some requirements to who could wear them,” Ms. Wimbush says.As many alumni-association officials describe it, the tradition of graduates’ wearing identical rings was abandoned during the 1960s and ’70s, as students either lost interest in the custom altogether or wanted to design individual rings that better suited their tastes. Soon those rings bore so little resemblance to one another that the unifying, school-spirit aspect of the ring tradition suffered, and ring sales declined. Now, alumni associations and commencement committees hope that reviving the tradition of one ring style for all students will strengthen their ties to alma mater. Iowa State, Kansas State, and Lehigh Universities have joined Georgia this year in inaugurating new rings with great fanfare. “Our ring ceremony was wonderful,” says Scott Dahl, director of marketing at the Iowa State alumni association. “The president presented everyone with their ring as they walked across the stage. We all sang the alma mater. It was very moving.”

Those colleges are emulating several institutions that still take their ring traditions seriously, says Harold Leverett, a product manager at Commemorative Brands, the country’s largest college-ring manufacturer. “At Texas A&M, ring penetration in the senior class is 110 percent because some students buy more than one,” Mr. Leverett says. “They’ll buy a plain one for everyday, a diamond-studded one for formal occasions.” College rings can cost several hundred dollars apiece. Joan F. Tatge, a spokeswoman for the alumni association serving the Texas A&M campuses in College Station and Galveston, gets choked up talking about the “Aggie ring.” “For many of us, it’s the thing we most cherish,” she says. “Ring Day is bigger than graduation around here.” She says the university has been asked to give rings to people like former President George H.W. Bush, but the requests have been denied. “There are very strict rules about getting a ring,” she says, “but the most basic is, you have to be a student or alum.”

The college-ring tradition is said to have begun at the U.S. Military Academy, where rings emblazoned with the motto “Danger Brings Forth Friendship” were first given to members of the Class of 1835. A new motto, along with details of the ring design, is created each year by a class committee. An undergraduate committee also designs the ring at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where students receive their rings during their sophomore year. Known as the “Brass Rat” because the institute’s mascot, a beaver, is featured in each design, the ring is loaded with tiny images symbolizing various aspects of the MIT experience. “It’s like a brand MIT puts on its students,” says Ashkay Patil, a junior. “You see other people wearing this ring, and you know that you have both gone through the trial by fire that is MIT.”

4. Elements of a Successful Official Ring Program

When one considers the programs at schools that never lost their ring traditions, three common elements can be consistently identified:

Symbolism
With an official ring tradition, the real product is the symbol of the school. Although students and alumni purchase a ring – which is jewelry – they are really acquiring a tangible symbol of their affiliation with their alma mater. A symbol must be recognizable to have meaning. Strong symbols have one unique design. For example, there is only one version of the Academy Awards’ Oscar, the American Flag, the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Stanley Cup. The more versions of a symbol that exist, the more difficult it is to recognize. A symbol that is difficult to recognize has less significance. The result is lowered demand for the symbol.

Exclusivity
One of the attributes of a strong symbol is exclusivity. To make a ring “exclusive,” we advocate the following marketing principles:
Use the most recognizable symbols of the institution in designing the official ring. Establish eligibility for the ring (for example, 60 credit hours or junior year standing), sending the message that the ring symbolizes academic integrity and must be earned. Send the right message by extending an invitation to eligible students and alumni to acquire the ring they have earned the right to wear. All strong symbols convey a message of exclusivity. If anyone could acquire an Olympic medal, it would not carry the same prestige. If all professional golfers were allowed to wear the green jacket at Augusta National, the jacket would not have the same meaning. The official ring must be reserved exclusively for those individuals who have successfully met the university’s standards and earned the right to wear it.

Affordability
We believe a ring should be priced fairly and then never discounted. Discounting has the affect of cheapening the item. This might work in a jewelry store, but this and other “beg to buy” strategies are not appropriate with an Official Ring message.

5. Marketing and Program Implementation

Schools that sell significant quantities of rings are those with strong ring traditions. Consequently, to sell a large quantity of rings, a solid ring tradition must be established. Said differently, Balfour’s goal is to generate profits through stronger ring sales. A growing number of universities are striving to build a ring tradition that will generate a wide range of benefits to the school, including a revenue stream through ring royalties. Balfour cannot obtain its goal – profitability – until we first get the institution what it desires – a meaningful Official Ring tradition.

Marketing Plan – Sending the Right Message
One of the keys to our company’s success has been our ability to help schools execute a marketing plan that conveys a message of symbolism and exclusivity. The results we have achieved at universities across the country confirm this: we have increased demand for rings at every school where we have implemented our marketing plan emphasizing these two critical themes.

Ring Invitation Brochures/Applications
The ring invitation brochure illustrates the invitation format we suggest as the primary marketing piece. This format conveys the message that the issuing authority — the University — is inviting students and alumni to acquire the symbol that they have earned the right to wear. The brochure is customized for two audiences: alumni, and also eligible students and their family.

On-Campus Signage and Banners
In addition to our direct mail pieces, we provide promotional materials to be used during regional or campus alumni events. We customize these materials for each school.

Marketing the Official Ring on the Web
We will provide detailed information about the official ring on your Web site and also offer a link to our sites to communicate the history of the tradition, pictures of the ring, eligibility details and ordering information.

The Official Ring Presentation Ceremony
In the past, class rings have been sent by mail and rings are opened at home. In contrast, the most successful ring traditions present the ring with an Official Ring Presentation Ceremony. This is a high-profile opportunity to educate your soon-to-be-alumni about the alumni association and the role the association will play in connecting them back to the institution. Most ceremonies are somewhat formal, and involve a high-level official from the school’s administration. Many schools have been successful in encouraging the president of the university to address the recipients and present the rings. We will assist with planning of the event, printing and mailing invitations and making arrangements for the Official Ring Ceremony.

Staying on Message
It is important to note the importance of consistency and continuity in any Official Ring campaign. The credibility of a ring tradition builds over time as the message remains constant and matures within the campus community. Initial buyer behavior patterns vary throughout the country, but react with proper education and supportive programming. While participation rates vary from school to school, the percentage of students purchasing a ring is consistently stronger in Official Ring environments.

6. Selling the Student on the Official Ring Concept

Objective: To educate students on the short-term and long-term benefits of the Official Ring concept. To build a program beyond the point of critical mass where a majority of students leave their campus with a symbol that connects them to their alma mater.Rationale: Once students understand the significance of an Official Ring, the tradition and the program will continue to grow.

Why an Official Ring?
An Official Ring gives every student of your university a single, unified symbol. As alumni, you will always be able to recognize fellow alumni anywhere in the world. The University is holding a special ring ceremony where your accomplishments and those of your peers will be celebrated. The (President, Provost, Dean) will be presenting your ring to you. Over the last 10 years an increasing number of colleges are returning to the tradition of a unifying symbol.

Why Has Change Been Restricted?
Your University has chosen one ring design to create a unifying effect among all University students and alumni. An Official Ring makes a statement about your shared pride and loyalty. You do have several options that will help customize your ring – stone or diamond upgrades, white or yellow gold, 10 or 14 Karat, engraving, etc.

Quantifying the Quality and Meaning of the Ring
While it is our responsibility to educate the customers on quality, it is more important to communicate the importance of owning their Official Ring regardless of metal quality (10K, 14K or 18K). It is our responsibility to help give the student perspective:

  • What the ring would mean to you 5, 15 or 30 years, or more?
  • How can you avoid feelings of regret if the ring is not purchased (“could’ve, would’ve, should’ve”)?
  • Even if you don’t feel you would wear it now, chances are you will want to own it and wear it in the future.
  • 14K is the most commonly used Karat in other jewelry of sentimental value such as engagement and wedding rings.

7. Campus Culture and the Role of an Official Ring Tradition

Webster defines “culture” as: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group. A university’s culture might be defined as the sum of its customs, rituals, and history, with symbols as the material traits of that culture. Webster also defines “tradition” as: the handing down of beliefs and customs from one generation to another without written instructions. Storied traditions at colleges and universities thrive because they are repeatedly told from one freshmen class to the next.Official rings have historically been one of the strongest symbols of university culture for those institutions that actively maintain a ring tradition. An Official Ring incorporates symbols that tell the institution’s story from one generation to another. Whereas many schools have consistently upheld their ring tradition throughout the years, many more have become aware of the importance of placing increased emphasis on their ring. Whether attempting to restore a ring tradition gone adrift, or establishing a new Official Ring Program from this point forward, the renewed attention to rings is no doubt good news for the industry.How do you successfully weave the tradition of the ring into the culture that already exists? By incorporating it into existing rituals, materials and customs on campus as well as creating new customs around the ring. In order for an Official Ring tradition to be truly beneficial to the University in reaching its goals, the program should help the university achieve a greater connection with the students as they move through their college career.

The purpose of this section is to provide a “best practices” plan for successfully achieving the incorporation of a new or restored Official Ring tradition into a campus culture. The added benefits from implementing these programs are a stronger sense of community among students, having a more easily “marketable” school culture, and greater student retention with an increased sense of belonging. Certain schools do very well in some of these areas but few maximize them all. In the end, all of these practices support the Official Ring methodology. The “best practices” on the following pages have been taken from Official Ring programs throughout the country. Whether sponsored by one department, or a partnership of many, these practices achieve impressive results for any institution.

8. Suggestions for the Official Ring Ceremony

Ceremony Programs
Programs typically picture the Official Ring and a brief description of tradition, along with the order of the event and a special message from the University. If the ceremony involves the singing of the alma mater, it is helpful to print the words in the program. Keep in mind that many parents and/or students will keep items such as the Official Ring Ceremony program for their scrapbooks, particularly if they are specially designed or printed on higher quality paper.

Invitations to the Ceremony
Invitations should be sent to ring recipients and their parents 10 to 14 days prior to the ring presentation event. While Balfour is able to provide assistance with ceremony invitations, a growing number of schools have claimed ownership of this process by creating specific invitations that are used exclusively for the ring ceremony. This enables the issuing authority to integrate the Official Ring into its overall branding strategy. In these cases, Balfour simply furnishes the ring recipient mailing lists and the school prints and mails the invitations in house. We will work with the Account Contact to develop a preferred system for printing and mailing invitations. Options will be discussed based on account size, number of ceremonies, product availability and maximum efficiency. Plan on 60-70 percent of all ring purchasers to attend the ceremony with two guests. This rule of thumb generally works well. It is not recommended that RSVPs be taken since many students won’t commit, but often attend at the last minute.

Scrolls, Registries and Certificates
Many schools prepare special scrolls documenting the meaning of all the symbols in the Official Ring. The scrolls are rolled in ribbons that are their school colors and presented to all students after they receive their ring — an added touch that makes the event more meaningful. Many ceremonies include the practice of ring recipients signing a registry to permanently document that student’s participation in the tradition. In some cases, the registration book is permanently displayed in the alumni office to further communicate the significance of the event. A registry will become increasingly valuable over time as graduates return and reflect back on receiving their ring. Some schools personalize “Certificates of Authenticity” to every ring recipient, commemorating the date on which the ring was earned and received. The image of the ring is included on the certificate.

Background and/or Live Music
Schools have included music with ceremonies in a variety of ways. Some simply have classical music playing before and after the ceremony, while others have live performers such as pianists, violinists or harpists. Student pianists play the alma mater as background music while rings are presented. It’s a good idea to have them play before the ceremony while folks gather for the event, as well as afterward. The University of Nebraska has invited a pep band in the balcony ready to play Hail Varsity at the conclusion of the ceremony. This created a loud and exciting send off to those just receiving their rings. Other schools have simply featured vocalists that sing the alma mater to close out the event. It’s always a good idea to print the words to the school song on the back of the program if the recipients are to join in the singing.

Catering and Refreshments
Consider light refreshments before the ceremony, after the ceremony, or both. This is nice to help accommodate those that arrive early for the event. This also helps to make those arriving early feel welcome and appreciated. Once the ceremony is over, refreshments encourage folks to stay and visit about the event, take pictures with friends and family and to show off their rings. Avoid heavy hors d’oeuvres, as light refreshments are fine and minimize costs.

Pre-Ceremony Registration
A master list of recipients will be provided in advance of the ceremony. Double check that the students’ names have been recorded correctly. In most cases, the rings should be in alphabetical order and matched to a nametag and a chair label. Registration should be outside (or just inside) of the one, and only one, entrance to the reception area. It’s imperative that all ring recipients register to ensure they are on the ring recipient list. As the recipients arrive, check them on the master list, and ask them to wear their nametag. Explain that they are free to join the other recipients, in the chair with a matching nametag. A plan should be discussed for those arriving late. Generally, a few seats are reserved for these students somewhere in the back and will simply fall in the presentation line at the end. In some cases, when seating is limited, it is beneficial to have students slide to the far side of each row to fill up the chairs for those not present. This should only be done right before the ceremony begins and will generally free up additional seating on the opposite side for parents and guests. Remember to include a plan for late arrivals when filling in all remaining seats.

Ceremony Timing and Venue
Ceremonies should be scheduled well in advance to accommodate the schedules of school dignitaries and to ensure venue availability. Scheduling in advance also allows for the ceremony date to be included in the ring brochure. This is effective in building the ring tradition. Ceremonies need to be held at a time convenient for most people, usually early during a weekday evening. Consider integrating the ring ceremony into a Parents Weekend so that more parents will participate. Sunday afternoon ceremonies are also common. As the Official Ring tradition grows, so will the attendance at the ceremony. At some point a school may find the need to host two or three ceremonies each fall or spring. In order to accommodate the schedule of the school’s dignitaries, suggest consecutive ceremonies on a weekend afternoon. Host a reception 30-45 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony, and include the reception time on the invitation. This encourages guests to arrive early, allowing them time to visit, take pictures and enjoy refreshments. The location should be large enough to hold the ring recipients, family members and guests; but not so large that the room looks empty. As the tradition grows, the venue capacity may also need to grow or change. In other words, it is better to have guests standing in the back of the room, than to have too many empty chairs. While a growing tradition may call for a larger facility, a university might opt to host multiple ceremonies dividing the ring recipients by academic college. This helps to keep the event more personalized and memorable. At Iowa State University, for example, the ceremony takes place in the Campanile Room, where the university’s storied tower can be seen through the arched windows as an appropriate backdrop for the event. In cases such as this, where the Campanile is the focal point of the ring, the ceremony can quickly become as big a part of the ring tradition as the ring itself. Other venues are more intimate, such as at Syracuse University, where the university president hosts the event at his residence. This is an especially effective way to signify the importance of the ring and personalize the tradition with the students.

Stage and Presentation Area
Considerable thought should be put into how to make the ring presentation and speakers’ area look nice. This is the area that in many cases will be photographed and will receive the most attention during the ceremony. The ring presentation and speakers’ area typically consists of a sound system and a podium. In some cases an elevated platform is important, depending on crowd size. Chairs should be arranged for the various speakers and distinguished guests, either behind or to the side of the podium. The school flag and/or a customized Official Ring banner are effective additions to the stage area. Avoid dating banners to enable use at future ceremonies. The ring table should be draped with an alumni association or school tablecloth and should be placed to one side of the receiving area. It is best if the table is placed far enough away as to not distract from the actual ring presentations. It is good to carpet the stage area to keep the walking noise to a minimum.

Presenting the Rings
Have each row stand and walk to the “staging” area. Usually a prompter will read the recipients’ names off of the list and the presenter will shake the hands of each recipient and hand them the ring box. There are several ways to get the ring box from the table to the presenter. One way is to hand the student the box in the staging area and let the student hand the box to the prompter. The prompter reads the student’s name and then hands the box to the presenter. The ring box is presented, they shake hands, a photo can be taken, and they return to their seat. This method is especially important as your participation numbers grow, as it assures that everyone is presented the right box. Another method is for those managing the ring table to collect the nametags from the ring recipients just before stepping on stage. The nametag is matched with the appropriate ring box and is forwarded to the prompter who then reads the name. This is a good method also because the nametag is removed prior to the photograph being taken with the presenter. Consider asking the recipients not to put their rings on until the conclusion of the ceremony, at which time everyone puts their rings on together. This simple tactic heightens suspense and further supports the community aspect of the tradition. It is also nice to end the ceremony with some kind of symbolic gesture, such as the school song, cheer or chant. Whether it’s Rock Chalk Jayhawk, getting your “Guns Up,” yelling “Sic’ em Bears!” or “There’s no Place Like Nebraska,” take advantage of this opportunity to launch your ring recipients with pride!

Announcing the Ring Recipients
When calling out the names, consider including the student’s hometown and major to make the event more personal. This may be more difficult for larger ceremonies, but an ideal way to make smaller, growing programs more personal. It’s always a good idea to provide the announcer a list of ring recipients in advance of the ceremony. In some cases, the announcer may contact the student in advance to confirm the correct pronunciation of a name. Securing an announcer is a great way to involve the campus community in the ring tradition. Consider contacting the person that currently announces the graduates at commencement, a well thought of professor or even a popular coach from the athletic department. This is an ideal way to build advocacy for the Official Ring program by engaging key figures to experience the ring ceremony in person.

Speakers, Presenters and the President
It is a best practice to have the university president or chancellor present the Official Ring. This simply communicates the significance of the event and demonstrates the University’s support of the tradition. If the president is not able to participate, consider other key campus dignitaries. The University of Kansas encourages the president of its Alumni Association National Board to present the rings. A ring is presented to the individual during the ceremony before he or she shares his/her feelings on the importance of the ring. An alumni association staff member also shares a traditional talk, citing the many interesting hometowns of students throughout the state. This humorous but meaningful part of the ceremony is very effective in positioning the ring as an ongoing symbol of the Jayhawk community, far and wide. A popular professor at Baylor University takes ring recipients on a “mental walk” through campus. The reoccurring line throughout his talk is “A Walk along Fifth Street” that explains the symbols engraved on the rings and the Baylor traditions they represent. Students are asked to close their eyes and simply listen to this mental walk through time. This exercise is extremely valuable in building a ring tradition since it simply tells the story, consistently, from one class to the next. The students clearly have a deeper appreciation for the ring after taking “the walk,” and share it with others that have yet to receive the ring. Depending on the make-up of the school, often times the ceremonies will include ritualistic or religious segments, such as prayer and/or blessings of the rings.

Parents, Alumni and Special Presentations
It’s always good to recognize parents in the room who are alumni. Legacy families are incredibly important to alumni associations and special acknowledgement of prior graduates is certainly appropriate. In fact, in some cases ring recipients are asked to applaud their parents or other family members for helping them with their education. Look for situations where family members are ordering their rings together, or where a ring is being presented to a first generation graduate in a particular family. These are great follow up stories for newspapers and alumni magazines that offer additional exposure for the ring tradition. At Iowa State University, five members of one family ordered and received their Official Rings together as a group. Pictures were taken and interviews conducted for a follow up story in their Visions alumni publication. One ceremony featured a ring recipient that purchased a ring for his father as a surprise. When all rings had been presented, the president called the student and his father back on stage to receive the ring. A standing ovation ensued after it was explained that this particular father had to pull out of school just before graduation to serve in the Vietnam War. He did not walk at commencement, nor received a ring – until much later alongside his son. Stories like these are priceless and tremendously effective in gaining valuable media exposure. There are countless “sidebar” ring stories to tell, the key is seeking them out and using them to reinforce the meaning of the ring. There will also be opportunities to make special ring presentations (retiring faculty/staff, famous alumni, spirit award winners, etc.) when and if the school desires to implement these strategies. Balfour is always willing to assist with special presentation rings of any kind, understanding that these presentations make ring programs even more meaningful, and help to strengthen the overall ring tradition within the particular campus community.

Post Ceremony
A designated area should be referred to at the conclusion of the ceremony, advising ring recipients where to go for questions, resizing and repairs. Depending on the ceremony date, resizes can usually be turned in time for graduation. Resizes are generally returned within two weeks. Since Balfour offers lifetime resizing, students will often elect to wear the ring for a few days before making the decision to adjust the ring. Finger sizes fluctuate with some individuals and they find the resizing policy reassuring. Rings that are not presented at the ceremony should be picked up from the account contact. Ideally, it’s best to leave the rings on campus for two weeks for students to pick up. Rings not picked up may be returned to Balfour to direct ship to the student. While we suggest a two-week time frame, we will comply with the account contact’s wishes regarding remaining rings. The Balfour representative will ensure that the account contact has an ample supply of repair forms and warranty cards for late pick ups. Repair forms include specific instructions for returning a ring, but any questions or concerns should be referred to the Balfour representative. The account contact may return “unclaimed” rings to Balfour after two weeks (suggested) to direct ship to the customer. Rings must be shipped Fed Ex (2nd Day) fully insured at Balfour’s expense to:

Balfour Shipping Department
Attn: Richard Lugo
7211 Circle S. Road
Austin, Texas 78745
(512) 440-0571

 

Miscellaneous Notes
Student Alumni Associations, or other student groups, are a great choice to greet, hand out nametags or to usher the participants and their families to their seats. It’s also a best practice to have the SAA serve as hosts of the ceremony. This helps to establish additional exposure for the ring tradition with the student body at large. Understand the importance of not distributing rings prior to the ceremony in order to protect the integrity of the event. There will be exceptions, but the students that can’t or won’t attend the ceremony should not be able to pick up the ring until after the event – just as diplomas are rarely distributed prior to commencement. Be sure to get some quality pictures to use for future publicity. A photograph of the president presenting the ring is good to include on the brochure, along with Web sites devoted to promoting the ring tradition. Video footage is recommended in order to create a short documentary of the ring tradition. These help build the tradition when aired at future ring ordering events, alumni chapter events, freshmen orientations, residence hall channels, sporting events, public access channels, etc. As a rule, recipients should wear their rings so the wording is facing them until after graduation. It’s often explained that the ring is worn “facing the heart” while on campus, before being turned to “face the world” at commencement. Many schools have scripted the actual “turning” of the rings as a formal part of their graduation ceremony. This is very strategic in formalizing the ring tradition with the campus community. It’s also an effective way to attract more ring recipients as parents witness the rings being turned. We do everything possible to make sure all rings arrive on time, but in the event a ring does not make the reception, we can always provide extra boxes for presenting. This allows a student to participate in the presentation event, although their ring will need to be shipped at a later date.

The Ceremony Checklist

  • Location reserved
  • Layout and set-up
  • Sound system
  • Musicians and/or singers
  • Master list of ring recipients
  • Check names for pronunciation
  • Rings in alphabetical order
  • Table draped for rings
  • Refreshments
  • Programs printed
  • Speakers lined-up and scripts prepared
  • Prompter provided master list
  • Nametags and chair labels
  • Registration area set-up and staffed
  • Still/digital photographer secured
  • School newspaper/yearbook contacted
  • Scrolls, registry, certificates
  • Video footage for future promotion
  • News release sent to local media

9. Effective Steps to a Thriving Official Ring Tradition

While Balfour is fortunate to partner with an impressive list of colleges and universities committed to building a ring tradition, it is evident that those institutions that take a more active role in promoting their Official Ring typically enjoy even greater participation rates. Although we make a substantial marketing investment to properly support the tradition, our efforts are maximized when combined with University marketing efforts beyond the brochure. Many of our partners have discovered effective ways to incorporate the Official Ring into existing alumni programs such as membership, mentoring and special recognitions. The following practices are tried and true methods for growth and are recommended when and wherever possible:

  • Encourage the alumni director or University president to send a letter to all eligible students prior to their receiving the Official Ring brochure. This letter is an enhancement over the concept card Balfour typically mails, in that it comes from the school as a compelling endorsement.
  • Include Official Ring buck slips with membership packets or include membership with purchase of ring in membership solicitations. Ring memberships can be coded and tracked for retention comparisons. Buck slips may also be inserted in affinity credit card mailings.
  • Develop a plan to encourage eligible faculty and staff (especially eligible alumni staff) to wear the Official Ring with possible campus payroll deduction and or trade in options.
  • Broadcast multi-media presentation on the Official Ring tradition at alumni chapter meetings, sporting events, residence halls, public access channels, etc.
  • Prepare radio PSAs promoting the tradition in local radio markets. They can also be posted on the Web site for those learning about the tradition online.
  • Seek one or two older graduates that received their ring when there was a more recognized tradition. Ask them to share their thoughts on what the Official Ring has meant to them throughout the years. Use these comments in promotional materials.
  • Gain e-mail access to students to reinforce direct mail regarding ordering days. Utilize prominent alumni to assist in communicating the Official Ring message – this might include a special presentation of the Official Ring at the ceremony.
  • If the Official Ring is synonymous with the diploma, then the ceremony is as important as commencement. Request ongoing editorial coverage of ceremonies in publications just as with graduation and include Official Ring ordering information in university mailings to graduating seniors.
  • An Official Ring ceremony news item in electronic newsletters is effective in keeping the tradition in front of alumni. It’s also strategic in providing online links to application forms or a site with more information.
  • Consider running a list of ring recipients in the student newspaper with special emphasis on the ceremony. This encourages more recipients to attend the ceremony and also persuades others to apply even after the order cut-off.
  • Display the Official Ring wherever appropriate on campus. Balfour will supply sample cases as needed to put rings on permanent display.
  • Consider establishing a ring endowment to make the Official Ring more affordable for qualifying students.
  • Utilize signage opportunities in campus buses to promote ring ordering days or the tradition in general.
  • Secure a presence at commencement and find out if information about the Official Ring may be distributed at the door. Have signage on the video board directing parents to where alumni association materials are available including information on the Official Ring.
  • Request that information about the Official Ring be documented in the commencement program. This demonstrates the campus acceptance of the Official Ring as the symbol of academic achievement.
  • If appropriate, have the president or chancellor include the turning of the Official Ring, along with tassels during commencement. This is extremely effective in building the tradition.
  • If free alumni association membership is not offered to graduates, consider offering membership for those taking part in the tradition. This is added value and sends a strong message regarding the association’s primary mission.
  • If making special ring presentations to alumni, include these acknowledgements alongside any others during special dinners, luncheons, pre-game or half-times.
  • To further demonstrate the importance of the Official Ring tradition, consider a creative way to permanently document the names of ring recipients. The ongoing additions of names will become increasingly meaningful to ring recipients over time.
  • Partner with a local hotel to serve as the preferred headquarters for parents attending a ring ceremony. This information can easily be included on invitations and encourages family to make the trip for the all-important event.
  • In addition, request that alumni ring flyers be permanently available in hotels, bookstore check out lines and throughout campus during homecoming. These are non-expiring brochures with detailed information about the Official Ring, the tradition and the ceremony.
  • Consider alternative locations to host a ring day — prior to a basketball game in the arena concourse, strategic academic buildings during peak class periods or even outside in a popular courtyard or high-traffic sidewalk.
  • Encourage SAA members to write ring application deadlines on campus chalkboards while hanging ring day posters.
  • Devote a page on the alumni Web site to the Official Ring. Include links regarding the history of the Official Ring, eligibility requirements, the Official Ring Ceremony, ring testimonials, ordering information, etc.
  • Ring testimonials are an especially powerful way to help build a ring tradition. Whether collected online, through alumni publications or obtained personally, positive thoughts from the ring recipient’s perspective help to build the ring tradition. Many schools publish these testimonials in various ways to emphasize the importance of the ring, the tradition, and what it means to the graduate.
  • Include information about the Official Ring with special reunion invitations. Custom mailings to returning alumni can offer the opportunity to be presented an Official Ring by the president.
  • If your president or chancellor sends a letter or e-mail to graduating students, request that a P.S. be included regarding the tradition and that he or she looks forward to presenting the Official Ring to participating students. Include information about the Official Ring in any campus publications that document university traditions.Include an image of the Official Ring on the cover of the Student Handbook, or daily planners published by the university or student organizations. In addition, incorporate the ring ordering and ceremony dates in the planner to further communicate ordering deadlines. Whether on the cover, or on the pages of the calendar, students will be reminded of the importance of the Official Ring throughout the academic year.
  • Think about a “less is more approach” with one ring offering a year rather than two. One offering can grow a program with intense seasonal marketing with emphasis on annual cutoffs and the Official Ring Ceremony.
  • Incorporate the Official Ring Ceremony into Parents or Family weekend. Schools such as Vanderbilt University and Lubbock Christian University have found this is an excellent way to get parents of juniors and seniors back to campus.
  • Finally, during formative years, recognize that students and alumni will not treat the Official Ring tradition any more seriously than those that guard it. Acceptance and validation will increase over time with consistent programming and message continuity

10. Creative Ways to Educate Underclassmen

When working to restore or establish a ring tradition, it is imperative that the tradition be communicated to underclassmen. There’s a variety of ways to build ring awareness with this audience, some of which are below:

  • Official Ring replica key rings can be integrated into legacy programs at an appropriate age to help encourage enrollment, retention and maturation from freshman to graduate. Key rings serve as an ongoing reminder whether on a set of keys, as a zipper pull, or in a lap drawer. Key rings must be used properly as an educational tool to be effective.
  • Consider a partnership with the new student relations office to include the Official Ring and scenes from the Official Ring Ceremony in their recruitment videos. Encourage them to have tour guides reference the Official Ring tradition during campus tours.
  • Produce a short multi-media presentation on the Official Ring tradition that could be played during college nights, freshmen orientations, residence hall channels, ring ordering days, sporting events, etc.
  • Host ring days or grad fairs in high traffic areas so that underclassmen learn the ordering process. Seeing the process early conditions students to follow the protocol upon eligibility.
  • Schedule and publicize Official Ring application days and ceremonies well in advance. Include dates on official university and alumni association calendars as an ongoing reminder.
  • If the Official Ring Ceremony is an important event, treat it that way with press releases that detail the significance of the tradition. Ongoing media coverage is invaluable in creating a single-ring culture that ignites involvement.
  • Understand that any efforts to educate freshmen essentially educate alumni as well. Parents who are alumni often respond enthusiastically to the Official Ring message when it’s a timely issue with their son or daughter beginning college.
  • If you have a mentoring program, consider integrating the Official Ring as a component of the program to strengthen ties between alumni and students.
  • Secure permanent banner links on online registration page with emphasis on eligibility criteria. This is also an excellent space for documenting ring order days and the Official Ring Ceremony.
  • Produce an educational multi-media presentation documenting all aspects of the Official Ring tradition with live links to the Official Ring Web site. This could be burned to CDs and distributed judiciously to new students.
  • Empower underclassmen in the planning of Official Ring Ceremonies and ring days. This makes the ring message relevant to students who are not yet eligible but recognize its importance.
  • Take advantage of the academic setting to build the ring tradition in the classroom. Utilize willing professors to serve as advocates for the ring tradition.

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