The custom of wearing academic regalia dates back to the 12th century when the caps and gowns marked the formal admission to the body of Masters. The gowns served a practical purpose of protecting teachers from the cold buildings of the time. Many of these early teachers were monks, so the hoods resembled a monk’s cowl that attached to the gown and could be pulled over the head. Later versions had a detached hood.
The European tradition of academic regalia traveled to the United States. In 1895, the United States adopted a specific code for academic apparel that has had slight modifications since its adoption. Until the Civil War, students at most American universities wore caps and gowns daily while in residence. Today the academic regalia is reserved for special occasions such as inauguration and commencement ceremonies.
The gown is made from a black material with varying degrees of fullness. The sleeves indicate a person’s academic credentials. Those with a bachelor’s degree have long, pointed sleeves and the gown is worn with a closed front. A person with a master’s degree wears the gown open with distinctive full length square sleeves that are crescent shaped at the bottom. The doctoral gowns are worn closed and have velvet panels on the front with full, round open sleeves with three bars.
Academic hoods tell you the individual’s academic story. The master’s hood is three and a half feet long and has velvet edging while a doctorate hood is four feet long with wide panels at either side and velvet edging. The colors of the edging indicate the discipline: apricot (nursing), brown (architecture and fine arts), citron yellow (social work), crimson (journalism/communications), dark blue (philosophy), green (medicine), lemon yellow (library science), light blue (education), light brown (business), orange (engineering), peacock blue (public administration), pink (music), purple (law), sage green (physical education), scarlet (theology), white (arts and letters) and yellow (science).
Academic caps vary by institution. Some use black mortarboards with black or colored tassels that relate to the conferred degree. Gold tassels are frequently worn for doctoral degrees. Some institutions have adopted a tam instead of the traditional mortarboard.
University Symbols and Traditions
The mace symbolizes the University’s governing authority and signifies that the proceedings have official sanction. The use of a mace dates back to medieval times in England when a mace was held by bodyguards for dignitaries at ceremonial functions. The U.S. House of Representatives uses a mace to indicate when the House is in session. The University Marshall carries the mace during academic processions. The University of West Florida’s ebony mace was a gift to the University in 1969 by a private donor. The head of the mace features an encrusted seal of the University and the State University System.
The University Seal
Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem, “The Chambered Nautilus,” inspired the University of West Florida’s official symbol, which was selected by Harold Bryan Crosby, the founding president of the University of West Florida. The nautilus shell rests on a shield of colors representing the green of the sea and the blue of the sky as well as the vast knowledge that we have explored and the future yet to be conquered. It bears the date of the University’s creation by the Legislature—1963.
The Chambered Nautilus
by Oliver Wendell Holmes
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length are free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!
The Presidential Medallion
Each of UWF’s presidents have worn a medallion embossed with the seals of the University and the State University System on ceremonial occasions. President Saunders will receive the chain of office during her inaugural ceremony, marking her as the sixth president of the University of West Florida.
The order of inaugural processional is steeped in tradition. During the processional, marshals lead each college and division into the hall and carry a gonfalon. Gonfalons are flags or banners that hang from cross pieces on poles. The design symbolize the different academic areas of the University. The use of gonfalons dates back to medieval times when the republics of Italy used them as state or office symbols.
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the University of West Florida, a specially designed University gonfalon will make its debut in the procession.
Other colleges and universities send delegates to march in the inaugural procession. The delegates march according to the institution’s founding date with the oldest college or university going first.
Learned societies, which are organizations of scholars devoted to the promotion of research, scholarly publication and education within their fields, send a representative to the inauguration ceremony.
University Marshal and College Marshals
Like many higher education traditions, the title of Marshal goes back to medieval Europe when Marshals were trusted advisors. Today, Marshals lead their colleges in procession at events such as commencement and inauguration. Each of the five academic colleges at the University will be led during the processional by their Marshal.
The University Marshal carries the University Mace. During the procession, the Mace will be carried by the University Marshal, who precedes President Emeritus Judy Bense. For the recessional, the mace precedes our newly inaugurated president, Dr. Martha D. Saunders.
The University’s senior faculty member, Dr. Allen Josephs, Professor in the Department of English, will escort President Martha D. Saunders into the ceremony. Dr. Josephs, who has taught at the University of West Florida since 1969, is a world-renowned Hemingway scholar.