Traditions and Symbols

Image: The Mace is carried by the Faculty Marshal.

The Mace is carried by the Faculty Marshal.

The Mace
The mace that is carried by the faculty marshal as a symbol of the University’s authority made its first ceremonial appearance at the installation of the fourth president of Gallaudet College. In a sense, it has existed longer than the University. It is made of the wood of three buildings historic in the education of deaf people. The largest piece is taken from the old interior stairway of the Tower Clock on the Gallaudet campus. Another piece comes from the oldest building on the campus of the AmericanSchool for the Deaf in Hartford, Conn., which is itself the oldest school for deaf students on this continent.

The smallest piece of all is a piece of plank from the wall behind the pulpit of a small 16th century church in Feuges, France, that was served by the Abbé Charles Michel de l’ Epée. Historians recognize him as the founder, in Paris, of the oldest free school for deaf students in the world.

The late Leon Auerbach, ’40, a former faculty member who represented Gallaudet and deaf people of the United States at an anniversary of l’ Epée’s birth, is responsible for bringing the plank to this country. When he and his wife visited Feuges to see the church, they found it in the early stages of restoration supported by the deaf people of France. The church’s vicar gave the plank to Professor Auerbach as a gift to Gallaudet from the old world to the new.

The mace was designed by Chun Louie, ’68, a Gallaudet photographer. It was made by Manfred G. Klatt, a Gallaudet carpenter who learned cabinetmaking in Germany, where he was born. The decorative silver and silver support for the head of the mace were made and applied by Theodore Salazar, an assistant professor in Gallaudet’s Art Department.

President's Medallion
The President’s Medallion
The president’s medallion was presented for the first time on October 23, 1969, to a Gallaudet president. Meant to be worn on ceremonial occasions, it symbolizes the authority of that office. The medallion was redesigned in 1986 to coincide with Gallaudet’s achievement of university status and shows the seal of Gallaudet University.

The Regalia
The pageantry and dress of the academic procession have been inherited from the medieval universities of the 11th and 12th centuries. In the Middle Ages, the teaching guild was the guild of the masters of arts, the bachelor was the apprentice of the master, and their dress was the outward sign of privilege and responsibility.

Principle features of academic dress are the gown, the cap, and the hood. Since the 15th century, Cambridge and Oxford have made academic dress a matter of university control. American universities agreed on a definite system in 1895. In 1932 the American Council on Education presented a revised code that is in general use today. Occasionally, uniquely colored costumes may be seen that do not conform to standard patterns. This is true for degrees granted by foreign universities or from American universities that have adopted European style.

A colorful array of regalia may be worn by staff and faculty during processions and ceremonies. The variety reflects the variety of institutions from which they graduated and the individual distinguishing customs of those institutions.

The Gown: While 12th century gowns may have been worn as protection against the cold of unheated buildings, today the gown is symbolic of the democracy of scholarship. It is black for all degrees, with pointed sleeves for the bachelor’s degree; long, closed sleeves with a slit at the elbow or wrist for the master’s degree; and full, bell double sleeves for the doctoral degree. Doctor’s gowns are also faced with velvet and have three bars of velvet on each sleeve, often in the color distinctive of the faculty or discipline to which the degree pertains.

The Cap: Today’s mortarboard is a derivation of the cap worn in the 16th century at the University of Paris. The soft velvet cap of a “doctor of secular faculties” is from the same period. Bachelor’s and master’s degree holders wear tassels of black, while doctoral degree holders wear tassels of gold.

The Hood: The hood is trimmed with one or more chevrons of a second color on the ground of the primary color of the college. The color facing the hood denotes the discipline represented by the degree. Certain hood colors have historical significance. The white of arts and letter symbolizes the white fur trim of the Oxford bachelor of arts degree. Red, the traditional color of the church, indicates theology; while the royal purple of the King’s Court signifies law. The green of medicinal herbs identifies medicine, and blue—the color of wisdom and truth—identifies philosophy.

The Honor Stole: The honor stole is awarded to graduate students with a 4.0 (straight A) grade point average and to undergraduate students with a 3.4 and above grade point average. This gold satin stole denotes exceptional academic achievement.

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