The commencement ceremony features academic regalia and other symbols traditional to higher education.
Graduates wear formal academic dress at commencement to serve 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 oblong sleeves that open at the wrist. Doctoral 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 only embellishments permitted on the commencement gowns. 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.
In addition to a maroon gown, undergraduate students wear a maroon mortarboard – which students may decorate. The color of the tassel worn pertains to the academic degree being conferred.
The College Mace
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 sterling silver. The oak staff, as well as the design of acorns and oak leaves, is symbolic of Meredith’s heritage and 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 31-inch staff is surmounted by an ellipse, 20 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, N.C. 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, N.C.