Getting the ring

“Marrying” your alma mater and what’s behind our post-grad pride


I barely acknowledged graduation season at Canadian universities last school year (though some are still on their way in September, so I’ll hold my breath) — besides the annoyance of more people it took to sift through on my way to Tim Horton’s at Carleton — but it still got me thinking about something that’s always puzzled and amused me:

The class ring.

From what I can gather, almost every university in Canada has a thick, gaudy (some more than others), gold ring that you can pay more than your two weeks salary for to don after completing your program of study. But after a bit of research, the whole ordeal of purchasing and attending the ceremony seems more like a long term commitment then a piece of jewelry you may never wear in five years.

“Do you take this university to be your alma mater, to have and to cherish, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer (let’s hope so after four years of education), for poorer, in recession and collapsing job market, until death do you part?”

Though it may seem ridiculous to those even inside the academic circle, most schools take their gold bands very seriously.

Perhaps the most extreme is St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., who’s reputation largely stems from their coveted “X-Ring.”

The iconic band, with large black ‘X’ set in a large gold square, has its own special spot on the StFX website complete with heart-melting alumni stories and a lost and found.

In order to attend the ring ceremony in black-robed attire and finally pump their X-Ring-graced fist into the air at graduation (there’s not a whole lot else to celebrate in Antigonish, I imagine), Xaverian’s (StFX folk) must fulfill a list of seven comprehensive criteria upon ordering.

According to local Antigonish retailer, Cameron’s Jewellers, the 10-karat ring starts at over $500.

So what’s the hoopla all about? Xaverians gather on the same day every year — December 3rd — to celebrate what legend has it is as the third most popular ring in the world (after the papal and Super Bowl variety).

On the other side of the country at the University of British Columbia, the same quality of ring (of much less fame) will run students between $450-$550.

Xaverian’s claim that when they meet another Xaverian on their worldly travels, they are instantly recognized by the ring on their finger. While this may be true, even for other less iconic class rings, what’s the big deal?

Perhaps it’s the feeling of being drawn together by a common fact that along with thousands before and thousands to come you’ve survived two to four years (or more, for the stragglers) of university and you belong to an elite class of academics.

The same may be true for other school merchandise, however — faculty-specific sweaters, mugs, key chains, caps — you name it, your school makes it possible for you to completely brand yourself with (insert university name here) stuff.

The result? Congratulations! You’ve been hitched to your alma mater. And you’re paying them to advertise it.

I hope the honeymoon in adulthood entails a half-decent job.

– photo by Casey J.


Getting the ring

  1. I’m insulted by this article. As a fourth year St. Francis Xavier student, I have looked forward to my upcoming X-ring ceremony since first year. Your article not only insults the great town of Antigonish (“there’s not a whole lot else to celebrate in Antigonish, I imagine”) but it completely misses the point of the X-ring and the St.FX community. We do not get our rings to say we “belong to an elite class of academics”. The X-ring, for myself, represents four years of friendship, community and accomplishment both academic and personal. The ring is cherished by St.FX students because it represents that we are a part of a unique community. When we get our x-rings we celebrate not only with our friends and fellow students but our faculty members, community members and family members. We graduate in small classes and over four years we get to know most of the students we are graduating with. For example, at another university where you may be sitting next to a complete stranger during your grad ceremony at X you are most likely sitting beside a friend. We have an active alumni community, much more active then any university alumni across Canada. This is because St.FX students cherish the education they received, the friendships they built and the community that they lived within during their time at X.
    I think the author of this article clearly missed the point of the X-ring and insulted the St.FX community by insinuating that a class ring is “gaudy” and will only be worn for “five years”. If you don’t understand the X-ring, I recommend you contact our alumni society or a student at St.FX before writing an article that insults a cherished tradition.

  2. I lived in Antigonish my entire life. St. FX is a nice university but the x-ring is an gawdy, ugly piece of jewelry, and I don’t find this article insulting at all. I’m in my fourth year of university too. I’m not getting a class ring. Why? I have friendships, I’ve worked hard, and had several personal and academic accomplishments. But getting a class ring won’t remind me of them. In fact, I expect that when I look back on my life, getting my university degree won’t be the highlight, probably won’t even be in the top ten.

    Why do you think other universities don’t put so much emphasis on their graduation rings? Because they aren’t as cultish.

  3. Dear St FX go-er. I went to another maritime Canada university many years ago and felt similar to you when I was graduating. However, as years go by, the tug and pride of past accomplishments deepen. A ring is a great memory of your achievements that can be worn with pride. It is a regret of mine that I did not get a ring. I have lived out West ever since graduation, and can safely say that from what I see in Calgary, St. FX ring bonds St. FX’ers (and yes, brands them too). Many teachers wear that ring, which is easily recognizable and has a reputation that comes with it. I suspect the wearing of the ring in job interviews at Catholic School Boards gave most applicants with St. FX on their resume a leg up! Think twice about your decision.

  4. It is quite interesting because Australian universities work very differently from canadian and us universities. We do not receive a ring upon graduation as the community spirit at university doesnt really exist that much. I studied at a university in canada and had a great experience and felt that the university spirit was alot higher.

  5. If you haven’t attended St.FX, you will never understand what the ring means to graduates. It’s that simple!

  6. I completely agree with Morgan Moffitt. The X ring is not about and elite group of academics. It’s about the bonds and friendships that were developed in this small class and community. Catherine sounds like she doesn’t get the point at all. Also, if you go to a big school, (or any other school for that matter) you just don’t get it. That’s not to say your stupid or out of touch, you just aren’t apart of my community. I get my X ring in 10 days and I have been looking forward to it for a very long time. Every X grad that I know still wears their X ring and is proud to say they came here. PRETTY PUMPED!! And it will have been worth every penny.

  7. Obviously this author is missing the point clearly. Being so judgmental about something she has no idea about. The X-ring means something different to everybody. It means pride, friendships, and memories; and considering that X is such a small close-knit school we like bond that we share with everyone. All I have to say is getting an X ring doesn’t mean being “branded”. Maybe you, the author, is just jealous because you will never receive the X ring, or ever understand the pride and spirit we have for our school. To this day, there are people who are in their 70’s STILL wearing their X-rings. And for future advice, try not to say that wearing an X-ring is being branded, because someone may brand your cheek with one.

  8. I didn’t take the time to read other people’s comments so I’m sure I’m repeating a lot of what’s been said, but I’m disappointed in the lack of research you’ve done on the meaning of the X ring. If you had spoken to someone who has received their ring you would know that owning the iconic ring isn’t about being “married” to your school, it’s about being proud of your school. Just as American Ivy Leagues have their songs and their brotherhoods, we have our X ring and take great pride in it. The Xaverian community is very similar to a cult and it’s almost impossible for anyone on the outside to understand it. I’ve been here for 2 years and I still don’t completely understand it. Personally, I can’t wait to be halfway around the world, in a country whose language I don’t speak and see a friendly face with an even friendlier ring.

  9. I remember my first beer, but i didn’t write stupid things like this afterward.

  10. Wow. I must say that I know of several people who have graduated from “X”. They are ALL proud people. They worked and studied hard and are proud to wear to the RING. My daughter works in Toronto and has had many ‘customer’s’ recognize the ring. My brother is in California and has had his ring recognized. If you didn’t attend this university, you cannot understand. It is a elite group of people, friends comrads. My brother, daughter, principal of a local schook, business associate – are all PROUD people to wear the X ring. It is recognizable.

  11. Oh, sorry, I forgot that my sister-in-law is a proud person to wear this ring. She was a foreign student and learned lots and offered even more to the “X” community.
    These are all proud people in a way we may never understand. They are proud and I am proud of them – ALL.

  12. than*, xaverians*, xaverians* – I suppose if nothing else in Antigonish, we can celebrate spell check.