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Commencement - Symbols of Authority

Office of the President 

The Ceremonial Academic Mace

The ceremonial Academic Mace appeared in European universities during the fourteenth century, and represented the amalgamation of two much older staff-like devices of similar length and shape.  These were the regal scepter and the medieval battle mace.  Kings throughout history have carried scepters in insignia of the lawful authority of just rulers. Medieval princes first used the battle mace as an effective hand weapon in combat. 

In the fourteenth century, the royal scepter and the battle mace were combined to produce the ceremonial academic mace.  It was carried before royalty, mayors of cities and chief officers of the medieval universities. 

Today, the mace is used on ceremonial occasions in the life of the university.  In commencement exercises, the mace specifically indicates the authority of the university president to award degrees.  It is most often carried by the Chief Marshal who immediately precedes the presidential party in the ceremonial procession. 

The Shaw University Mace consists of a twenty-four inch base of hard cherry and applied dark finish.  The large flat ends of the upper mace have been fitted with banks of fine sterling silver.  Over this is an open work design with several solid areas, which are decorated with garnets, long regarded as the stone of compassion and peace of mind.  This stone also reflects one of the University's colors.  The mace design is inspired, in part, by the burning torch depicted in the University's crest. 

Dr. Paulette Dillard is the 18th President of Shaw University to be handed the University mace, which was designed and executed in 1988 by the noted Shaw University artist and former Associate Professor Minnie McMilan. 

Academic Attire

The caps and gowns worn by those in the procession are of ancient origin and have been the traditional costume of the scholar since the Medieval Period. Today's modern academic costume in the United States is based upon an intercollegiate code established in 1895.  The costume code regulated the cut, style and materials of gowns as well as the specification of different colors for different disciplines. These early agreements have been revised periodically to cover standardization of the cap, the gown, and the hood. 

The distinctions set up by the Intercollegiate Code are simple. Each degree has its own distinctive gown and hood. The gown, commonly black, differs in sleeves and trimming according to level of degree. The bachelor's gown is relatively simple in design.  It is full cut, falling in a straight line from an elaborate yoke with long pointed sleeves as its distinction. The master's gown is similar to the bachelor's except for its peculiar arrangement of the oblong sleeves, which terminate in square ends at the wearer's knees.  The wearer's arms emerge through slits in the sleeves made at the elbows.  The doctoral gown, full and flowing, is distinguished by velvet panels down the front and around the neck and by three bars of velvet on the voluminous bell-shaped sleeves. The velvet is usually black, or it may be a color designating the field of study, for example, dark blue for philosophy. 

The academic cap was a later development. It was conferred as a symbol of the M.A. degree. Some of these master's caps were stiff, some soft, some square, and some round with a tuft in the center. Today's tassel is an elaboration of the tuft. Although round caps are still used at some universities, Oxford University's “mortar board” style is more common. 

The most distinguishing feature of academic attire is the hood, which was originally a practical element of dress, but which evolved into a separate and purely ornamental article draped over the shoulder and down the back. The length of the hood and the width of its velvet designate the level of the degree.  The color of the velvet edging on the hood specifies the wearer's field of learning.   

These colors include:

Agriculture - Maize  Music - Pink 
Arts, Letters, Humanities - White  Nursing - Apricot 
Commerce, Accountancy, Business - Drab  Oratory (Speech) - Silver Gray 
Dentistry - Lilac  Pharmacy - Olive Green 
Economics - Copper  Philosophy - Dark Blue 
Education - Light Blue  Physical Education - Sage Green 
Engineering - Orange 
Fine Arts, including Architecture - Brown  
Public Administration, including Foreign Service - Peacock Blue 
Forestry - Russet  Public Health - Salmon Pink 
Human Ecology - Maroon   Science - Golden Yellow 
Journalism - Crimson  Social Work (Social Science) - Citron 
Law - Purple   Theology - Scarlet  
Library Science - Lemon   Veterinary Science - Gray 
Medicine - Green   

Colors of the silk lining in the center of the hood are those of the college or university that conferred the degree.  The tassel may be either black or the color of the field of learning.  The tassel of the doctor's cap may be gold. 

Pro Christo et Humanitate 
(For Christ and Humanity)