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Maybe it's regional?

I'm in the US, and I don't think I have the same sense of norms as Another Reader. I think intuitions may vary—but I would take it as very supererogatory but quite kind to give a dissertation chair a bottle of wine or scotch. And I know several people who have sent small gifts of some kind to letter writers after a successful run at the job market. Also, another alternative is a nicely bound, hardcover copy of the dissertation.

newly tt

Giving a gift while leaving an exam is very different than giving a bottle of champagne or something after the defense!! Presumably the defense is happening because you're going to pass it, after all. There's no appearance of bribery in the one case, while handing over a gift after taking an exam looks exactly like bribery.

I gave my advisor champagne. It was appreciated but, as the response above puts it, supererogatory.

I sent gifts to my grad school recommenders, also appreciated and supererogatory.


My director and I shared an interest in whiskey. After everything was done, signatures, paperwork, etc., I took him a bottle of Scotch. He appreciated the gesture, especially as it was a bottle he hadn't tried before. I have no idea what other people in my program might have done, or if they did anything at all.

Grad Student

I don't know anything about US norms, but for what it's worth, I heard from multiple professors that the best "gift" or show of gratitude is that the student keep on sending occasional updates on his/her progress and stage of his/her career and life (even of the career is not in the academia)


I got bound copies of my dissertation for my supervisors and took them out for a beer at the on-campus pub, after everything was signed on the dotted line. The campus beers were somewhat sentimental; the supervisor I took there has a habit of treating grad students to a beer after class on Fridays. If I had known of any other special treat they might have particularly enjoyed (eg, a nice wine or bottle of scotch or book) I might have done that, too, but in this case, I had the sense they would enjoy this more. Now that I am a faculty member myself, I have received gifts from former students that engage the gamut, but I think I would still enjoy most of all the knowledge that a student has really benefited from my investment in them, so heartfelt cards have meant the most to me. (Though I, too, would enjoy a bound copy of a studet’s dissertation!)

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