For centuries, pomp and circumstance have added color and dignity to the recognition of scholastic achievement. Modern academic dress evolved from caps and gowns worn in medieval universities, which were agencies of the church. High leaders of the church customarily wore distinctive garments, a practice that was followed by bishops and their vice-chancellors as they became heads of universities. Academic gowns distinguished university personnel from townspeople who also wore gowns for daily dress during that time period. The costumes of doctors and lesser clerics were not as elaborate as those prescribed for officials, but they were distinctive nonetheless. Through the centuries, the traditional pageantry has not changed much. In ancient times, each individual scholar wore special colors, fur and fabrics, as did his students. Since the traditions began, however, official standards have been documented that allow the observer to identify more about the scholar.
While you may not be able to identify the origins of each specific academic robe and hood appearing in the commencement ceremony, you can reflect that from the certificate recipient in a simple black gown to the Doctor of Philosophy in a velvet trimmed robe and colorful hood, students and professors alike are paying homage to more than 700 years of academic tradition.
An academic legend tells of a wise old Greek who dressed his students in mason's sackcloth robes and mortarboards because "Their destiny is to build. Some will build cities; some will build lives – perhaps one of them will build an empire; but all will be builders on the solid foundation of knowledge."
Fabricated in bronze by Judie Gumm of Ester, Alaska, in 1991, the Chancellor's Medallion depicts the University of Alaska seal featuring Mount McKinley, with the addition of a cluster of forget-me-nots—the state flower—at the bottom and a ribbon of aurora borealis across the sky. The medallion is held by a beaded neckpiece in a forget-me-not pattern made by Selina Alexander in the Koyukon/Athabascan style. The central cord is made of tanned moosehide, covered with beads sewn together one by one and then sewn to the cord. The medallion was commissioned by Chancellor Patrick J. O'Rourke in his last year of office to reflect the Alaska roots and cultural diversity of the University's students.
The mace was commissioned by the University of Alaska Alumni Association
in honor of the University's 1967 Golden Anniversary and was created
by UAF Professor Ron Senungetuk using silver, jade and rosewood. At
the top of the mace, a disk in the center of two open orbs depicts the
University of Alaska seal on one side and the Alaska State seal on the
other. The materials were selected to symbolize qualities of durability,
strength and beauty.
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Last modified January 27, 2010 by University Relations Web Developer.