Inauguration Symbols & Traditions

Academic Robes and Regalia

The pageantry and color of an inauguration and an academic convocation come to us from medieval times when academic robes and regalia were adapted from ecclesiastical garb. Most faculty robes were black to symbolize the democracy of scholarship, since they cover any dress or rank of social standing worn beneath. The bachelor's gown is cut with long pointed sleeves, the master's gown features closed slit sleeves, and the doctor's gown is full-cut with double-belled sleeves and bars of velvet trim.

The hood, originally a simple cowl attached to the gown, bears the heaviest symbolism of the academic costume. Its lining displays the colors of the university which granted the degree, and the bordering color indicates the field of learning (or faculty) in which the degree was earned. The length of the hood indicates the degree: four feet for the doctor, three-and-a-half feet for the master, and three feet for the bachelor. The hood is often omitted on the bachelor's gown. The doctor's hood may bear a single chevron on the lining. Two narrow chevrons indicate a bachelor, while the master may have a single chevron or may have the hood divided equally into two colors. The square cap, or mortarboard, originated in the 13th century at the University of Paris, and came to England in Tudor times. Earlier caps were round and reserved for doctoral degree holders. This velvet cap is still worn by doctors, except those with degrees in theology. Doctoral tassels are usually gold and other degrees are represented by black, but in recent years tassels have come to match the lining of the hood to indicate the field of learning.

Arts, Letters, Humanities - White
Commerce, Accountancy, Business - Drab
Economics - Copper
Education - Light Blue
Engineering - Orange
Fine Arts, Architecture - Brown
Journalism - Crimson
Law - Purple
Library Science - Lemon
Music - Pink
Nursing - Apricot
Oratory (Speech) -Silver Gray
Philosophy - Dark Blue
Physical Education - Sage Green
Public Administration - Peacock Blue
Public Health - Salmon Pink
Science - Golden Yellow
Social Science - Cream
Social Work - Citron
Theology - Scarlet

The Medallion
Used since antiquity as symbols of momentous events as well as affiliations with groups and associations, medallions were important in medieval times as symbols of membership in religious orders and guilds. As part of academic regalia, they may be struck for both ceremonial and commemorative uses. Salem State University's presidential medallion bears the university seal of a clipper ship and the founding date of 1854.

The Mace
During the Middle Ages, the wood mace clad in metal was an effective weapon in battle, but as newer and more powerful military arms developed, it was transformed into a symbol of dignity and authority.
The earliest ceremonial maces were borne by bodyguards of 12th century English and French kings; by the end of the 16th century, they were used widely by officials of English cities and towns. Today the use of the ceremonial mace is found in the British Houses of Parliament, and is carried before ecclesiastical dignitaries and in university and college convocations and commencements.

The Salem State University Mace, which precedes the president in procession and traditionally is carried by the senior tenured faculty member, represents the president's responsibility as the chief academic and administrative officer of the university. Commissioned by President James T. Amsler in 1979, the late Salem State Art Professor, Arthur W. Smith, designed the mace, which features the university seal on all four faces. It was first carried during the university commencement of 1980 by Music Professor Timothy Clifford.

The Traditions of the Inauguration
The inaugural ceremony commences with an invocation, attended by welcoming remarks from the Board of Trustees. Salutations follow by emissaries of the City of Salem, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Federal Government. Ensuing greetings from Salem State students, alumni, Foundation, administrators, staff, faculty and librarians reflect the spirit of the collegiate family. After inaugural remarks, the robing ceremony commences, and is succeeded by the investiture at which time the President accepts the charge to faithfully execute the duties of the office. As part of the investiture, the President is presented with the Salem State University Medallion and Mace. The inaugural address culminates the ceremony, and is succeeded by the Academic Convocation, benediction and the recessional.