The Academic Mace
The tradition of the academic mace began in the late 14th century when two ancient instruments, the royal scepter and the battle mace, were combined to form a symbol of the authority of the president or rector of a university. Noblemen carried the battle mace as both a weapon and staff of command, and the sovereign used the regal scepter as a sign of rulership, justice, and authority.
Together with the chain of office, the academic mace indicates that the president of the university is the temporary embodiment of the power, authority, autonomy and sovereignty vested in the institution represented.
At the University of Mary Washington, the faculty marshal carries the academic mace on behalf of the president at academic events such as commencement exercises, inaugurations, and convocations.
The original University of Mary Washington mace was designed by Asprey and Company of London, England, and was first used for the May 1970 Commencement. The sterling mace carried in the installation ceremony was commissioned to Suzannah Wagner Merritt of Ashland,Va., as a special project of the University’s Centennial Celebration in 2008. It comprises numerous symbols of the University, including lapis stones to display the school color; blossoms of dogwood to honor the Virginia State tree; acorns and oak leaves to recall the historic tree at Brompton, home of the President; and a herringbone motif representing Campus Walk. The six prongs are engraved with the six names of the school prior to its becoming a university in 2004; they are adorned with a lapis disc engraved with the University seal. The handle is emblematic of the original Mary Washington mace.
One of UMW’s newest traditions, the Presidential Collar was first worn by President William M. Anderson, Jr., at Commencement in 2006. Chains of office, also known as collars, originated in the Middle Ages and are worn today by presidents on ceremonial occasions as part of their regalia. The University of Mary Washington chain is a unique design crafted from gold-plated sterling silver with lapis luzali gem accents by jeweler Susannah Ravenswing. Symbols important to the history of the University are incorporated in every element of the chain. A large medallion depicting the school seal is flanked by white oak leaves modeled after the stately oak tree at Brompton, home of the president. The names of the previous presidents of this institution alternate with its six historical names on links that are connected with dogwood blossoms, the State tree.