The commencement ceremony features academic regalia and other symbols traditional to higher education.
The wearing of formal academic dress at Commencement serves as a reminder of our union with an academic heritage whose ceremonial tradition dates from the medieval university. The varied patterns of cut and color in the dress of faculty members indicate the level of their degree, their academic discipline and the universities that granted their degrees.
The distinguishing mark of the gown is the sleeve. Bachelor’s degree gowns have long pointed sleeves. Master’s degree gowns have obling sleeves which open at the wrist. Doctor’s degree gowns have bell-shaped sleeves with three velvet chevrons, indicating years of post-graduate study.
Many participants also wear international flag patches from countries around the world. The patches are worn by students, faculty and staff who have lived, studied, or done research abroad, including international students and faculty.
Hoods, which vary in length for the three degrees, are lined with silk in colors identifying the institution granting the degree, usually with one color forming a chevron pattern over the other. The color of the velvet edging indicates the discipline in which the degree was earned.
Undergraduate students wear a maroon gown and maroon mortarboard. The tassel worn pertains to the academic degree being received: black tassel, Bachelor of Arts; pink tassel, Bachelor of Music; gold tassel, Bachelor of Science; white tassel, Bachelor of Social Work.
Graduate Students wear a black gown, black mortarboard, black tassel and a hood. Hoods reflect the color of the academic discipline: drab, Business; light blue, Education; gold, Nutrition.
A symbol of authority and order in pageantry, the ceremonial Mace was used by Cambridge University as early as the thirteenth century. Traditionally, the marshal who leads the academic procession carries the Mace.
The Meredith College Mace is made of natural oak and of sterling silver. The oak staff, as well as the design of acorns and oak leaves, is symbolic of Meredith’s heritage and of her century-long location in and association with Raleigh, historically known as the “City of Oaks.” An iris, the College flower, is placed at the tip of the Mace and tops a replica of the official Meredith seal, which is surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves. Gold, as well as the College colors of maroon and white, is incorporated in the enameled seal.
The thirty-one inch long staff is surmounted by an ellipse, twenty inches in circumference, onto which are hand-engraved the original building of Baptist Female University, circa 1898, once located in downtown Raleigh, and Livingston Johnson Administration Building, circa 1926, on the present west Raleigh campus.
The Meredith College Mace is a gift of Egbert L. Davis Jr. of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He presented it to the College in memory of his wife, Eleanor Layfield Davis, a Meredith graduate with the Class of 1932 and a well-known North Carolina artist. Introduced in Commencement exercises for the Meredith Class of 1989, the Mace was designed by Rebecca Allmendinger Schiffman and produced by Schiffman’s Inc. of Greensboro, North Carolina.