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What is an Inauguration?

According to April L. Harris's book, Academic Ceremonies, A Handbook of Traditions and Protocol, inaugurations are large celebrations in honor of the installation of a new university president. Usually built around a particular theme, inaugurations can encompass a series of events, including symposia, musical performances and other public presentations. The main reason to host an inauguration is to introduce the new President to the University's constituents and provide a platform for the expression of the President's vision for the future of the institution. It is an opportunity for the entire University community to welcome a new leader in an optimistic, forward-looking way.

The University's Board of Trustees determines the scope and timing of the inauguration and initiates the planning process by appointing a committee to oversee all aspects of the event. The inauguration ceremony should take place within the President's first year.

Lending color to the pageantry of the ceremony are the robes and hoods worn by the faculty and delegates. This regalia dates back to medieval times when it served a functional as well as an ornamental role, separating the learned men from other groups and offering warmth and protection.

In late 19th century America, a conference was held by representatives of colleges and universities to bring more order and system to the custom of academic dress. Since then, there have been periodic conferences to revise or reconfirm existing practices.

Essentially, holders of the bachelor's degree wear black robes unadorned. Holders of the master's degree wear hoods that are lined with the colors of the college conferring the degree and trimmed with the color representing the subject in which the degree was earned. The doctoral robe is adorned with velvet and also is worn with the hood suitably ornamented. Holders of degrees from foreign universities or religious orders wear the entire academic costumes as decreed by the conferring institutions.

President Mary Jane Saunders wears presidential regalia. The four chevrons on the sleeve of the robe are used only by university presidents. The colors of the chevrons and master's hood � blue and red � are the official FAU regalia colors.

Many universities add to the dignity and beauty of the President's academic regalia by providing a specially designed medallion that is worn around the neck on a chain. President Mary Jane Saunders will wear the FAU President's Medallion during the installation ceremony.

The President's Medallion is a replica of the University Seal. The image at the center of the circular seal depicts ocean waves, the rising sun and the flame of knowledge, evoking thoughts of scholarly work being carried out in a place of great natural beauty. A mace, generally made of wood and clad in metal, was used as a weapon during the Middle Ages. Later, as more powerful military arms were developed, the mace became a symbol of authority.

Replicas of the President's Medallion have been awarded at commencement ceremonies to a number of individuals who have rendered extraordinary service to the University. Select here to see the President's Medallion recipients and the dates on which they were awarded.    

During the 12th century, guards of the English and French kings were the first to bear ceremonial maces. The tradition grew, and by the end of the 16th century the mace was used by officials in cities and towns throughout England. Today, the ceremonial mace is carried in the British Houses of Parliament, before ecclesiastical dignitaries and in university convocations.

The Florida Atlantic University mace is carried during commencement ceremonies by the University Marshal, who will hold it while leading the processional at the installation ceremony. It was designed and handcrafted by FAU Art Professor William Lattimer and is made of mahogany and silver. The carved staff, encircled with silver rings, is topped by a silver owl with outspread wings. The design signifies the dignity, determination and wisdom of FAU's owl mascot.

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