The West Virginia University seal was adopted by the WVU Board of Regents on June 15, 1869. The center of the seal includes Woodburn Circle, hills to reflect the institution’s stability, and a rising sun to indicate its prosperity.
The Greek motto written in the seal’s inner circle translates to: “Add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge,” from 2 Peter 1:5 in the King James Bible.
The Latin words written on the seal’s outer circle translate to: “Seal of the West Virginia University. Established 7 February, 1867.”
The Regents’ original, handwritten resolution adopting the seal is located in the University Archives in the WVU Wise Library.
The mace is a symbolic tradition that originated during the Middle Ages. The ornamental staff of institutional authority is brought to the platform by the Grand Marshal who, to signify the beginning of the ceremony, taps it three times and places it in a designated holder.
The mace used in official ceremonies at West Virginia University was handcrafted by a WVU professor. It represents the official authority of the University president and precedes him or her at academic ceremonies, including commencement and inaugurations. When the president is not in attendance, smaller batons are used to signify the designation of institutional authority.
The tradition of academic marshals comes from storied English universities. The Grand Marshal is the chief protocol officer who coordinates the ceremonial traditions of commencement, including the processional and recessional. The Grand Marshal is also responsible for the school’s relics, including the mace and batons. University marshals are typically members of the faculty. Schools and colleges may also select their own faculty and student marshals to help facilitate their individual ceremonies.
WVU’s University Marshals are designated faculty members who serve as ceremonial leaders during academic ceremonies, including the December Graduates Convocation and May Commencement. University Marshals are selected by the Provost’s Office, and there is at least one marshal from each of the University’s 13 schools and colleges. Marshals are appointed to three year terms. The current Grand Marshal is Kari E. Sand-Jecklin.
The sequence of the processional is as follows: members of the platform party, deans, faculty, degree candidates, honored guests, and the presiding officer, such as the University president or provost.
Academic regalia is one of the time-honored traditions of higher education institutions around the globe, including West Virginia University. With its roots in Medieval Europe, a uniform code of academic dress was adopted by American educators in 1895. As the land-grant institution of West Virginia, WVU proudly upholds these traditions for its graduation ceremonies.
The essential features of academic regalia worn today dates back to the Middle Ages. The oldest universities of northern Europe evolved from ecclesiastical institutions, and during the early days, both faculty and students were regarded as part of the clergy. Hence, they wore clerical garb largely borrowed from the monastic dress of the day, not merely on special occasions, but as their regular costume.
The head covering of the modern academic costume was developed from the skullcap worn by the clergy in cold weather to protect their bare heads. In universities, this skullcap acquired a point on top, which gradually evolved into a tassel. The bonnet with tassel is still worn by some. For the most part, however, it has been replaced by the more familiar mortarboard.
The modern gown seems to have been borrowed from the habit worn by Benedictine monks. No trimming is found on the gowns worn by bachelor’s and master’s graduates. For those holding doctoral degrees, the gown is faced down the front and trimmed on the sleeves with velvet.
- Doctoral degree gowns fall 6 inches above the ankle and have billowy, bell-shaped sleeves. These gowns also have a front velvet facing and three velvet bars on the arms.
- Master’s degree gowns fall 6 inches above the ankle, and the sleeves bear a unique rectangular shape that hang below the hand.
- Bachelor’s degree gowns are simple pleated robes that fall just above the ankle.
The modern hood is colored according to the scholarly field of the individual and bears, on the inner liner, the official colors of the institution that conferred the graduate’s degree.
West Virginia University ceremonial regalia consists of a blue gown with blue velvet trim, a gold and blue hood, and a blue hat. This regalia is worn by members of the platform party, special guests, and members of the University administration.
Sources and Further Reading
Academic Ceremonies: A Handbook of Traditions and Protocol by April Harris
An Academic Costume Code and An Academic Ceremony Guide by Eugene Sullivan, American Council on Education; Reprinted with permission from American Universities and Colleges, 15th edition © 1997 Walter de Gruyter, Inc.