Did You Know?: Commencement traditions

December 6, 2013  

Purdue mace

One of many commencement traditions involves the Purdue mace, which is carried before the president and other dignitaries in the platform party during the commencement procession. (Photo provided) 
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When Purdue's graduation candidates cross the stage in Elliott Hall of Music on Dec. 15, their commencement ceremonies will involve traditions that are nearly as old as the University itself.

One of the oldest traditions involves the use during commencement of the University's official seal, which depicts an outline of a griffin inside the words "Purdue University."

Over the years, the University has had nine seals, the first of which was introduced in 1890, according to "A University of Tradition: The Spirit of Purdue," a book compiled by the Purdue Reamer Club. The seal in use today was the creation of Al Gowan, who was assistant professor of creative arts at the time. The University formally adopted the seal in 1969, 100 years after Purdue was established.

During commencement, the seal will be displayed on the University's banner, which will be placed on the stage, and on officials' academic attire. It also will be displayed on the presidential medallion, which President Mitch Daniels will wear during the ceremony, and on the University's official mace. The mace will be carried before the president and other dignitaries in the platform party during the commencement procession.

The presidential medallion and mace also have storied histories as traditional elements of commencement.

The medallion was handcrafted from sterling silver, ebony and gold using centuries-old techniques, and the president wears it as a symbol of stature and authority during ceremonial occasions -- particularly commencement. The president is the only platform member who wears a medallion, says Chris Pass, senior assistant registrar for commencement and academic records.

Also a symbol of authority, the mace was designed and crafted in the 1980s by David Peterson, who was a professor of art and design. He also taught jewelry and metalsmithing. The mace's design features the Purdue seal at the center of its head. Surrounding the seal are two sweeping silver wings.

Another long-held commencement tradition is the use of banners on the stage. At the upcoming ceremonies, banners will represent every degree-granting college, the Graduate School, and the University itself; each will be colored Old Gold and Black and carries a symbol of the group it represents.

The banners will be used in the academic procession that will lead the graduation candidates into Elliott, Pass says.

This winter's commencement ceremonies will take place at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 in Elliott Hall of Music. Tickets are required for attendees. For more information about upcoming commencement activities, go to www.purdue.edu/registrar/commencement/index.html.

Writer: Amanda Hamon, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu

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