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Inauguration Pageantry and Color

College and university presidential inaugurations have a rich history full of color and pageantry. Here is a quick guide to the symbols and garments evident during the inauguration of Richard L. McCormick as the 19th president of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

University Gonfalon: The gonfalon is a banner displaying Rutgers’ coat of arms. It is borne at the head of all university processions by a senior faculty member known as the gonfalonier. The coat of arms is divided in quarters, each representing in armorial bearings the founding and growth of the university. The upper right quarter bears the arms of the House of Orange and recognizes the Dutch settlers who founded Queen’s College under the aegis of the Dutch Reformed Church. The upper left quarter contains the armorial devices of English King George III and Queen Charlotte. George III granted the Charter of 1766 to establish Queen’s College. The lower right quarter contains the Great Seal of New Jersey. The lower left bears the coat of arms of Col. Henry Rutgers, a benefactor of Queen’s College. The name of Queen’s College was changed to Rutgers College in his honor in 1825.

University Gonfalonier: The gonfalon in the inaugural procession is carried by Paul Panayotatos, professor of electrical and computer engineering, School of Engineering, Rutgers-New Brunswick. As gonfalonier, Panayotatos serves as head marshal of the procession. He is chair of the University Senate and is also ex officio faculty representative to the Rutgers Board of Governors.

University Mace: The mace, an ornamental staff symbolizing the president’s authority, is borne by Mildred Schildkamp, secretary of the university, and carried before the president in academic processions. The design of the Rutgers mace incorporates signs of the institution’s traditions and present status as New Jersey’s state university. The head of the mace bears the university’s coat of arms and its seal worked in colored enamel and gold on silver, all surmounted by a facsimile of the crown of Queen Charlotte, for whom the university was originally named “Queen’s.” The long shaft is made of stained wood and silver on which are engraved intertwining ivy leaves, symbolizing learning; red oak leaves, representing New Jersey’s state tree; and violets, the state flower.

The Rutgers Seal: The University Seal is an adaptation of that of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, an ancient seat of learning, whose Latin motto surrounding a sunburst is “ Sol iustitiae nos illustra” -- “Sun of righteousness, shine upon us”-- based on two biblical texts, Malachi 4:2 and Matthew 13:43. Queen’s College, forerunner of Rutgers College, modified the Utrecht seal to read “Sol iustitiae et occidentem illustra”-- embracing the Western world, meaning “Sun of righteousness, shine upon the West also.”

The boards of governors and trustees approved a revised design for the University Seal in 1997 that includes the words “Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey” and adds the 1766 founding date.

Academic Regalia: The wearing of academic costumes dates to the oldest universities in the world. Medieval scholars, it was believed, wore robes and hoods for warmth in their unheated buildings. When American universities decided to adopt academic dress, they established a code of regulations that is still followed today.

The code makes it possible to distinguish recipients of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, and to recognize, as well, the institution that granted them. The bachelor’s gown has pointed sleeves and is worn closed. The master’s gown, worn either open or closed, has oblong sleeves, the front part of which frequently is cut away at the elbow. The doctor’s gown is also worn either open or closed and has bell-shaped sleeves. Hoods vary in size according to degree, with the largest reserved for those having a doctorate. All hoods are lined in silk in the academic color or colors of the institution that conferred the degree.

At Rutgers, members of the board of governors and board of trustees, as well as those who hold a doctoral degree from the university, wear the Rutgers gown, which is scarlet with black velvet front panels framed on the outer edge with gold cord braid. The velvet panels are embroidered with a crown and the year 1766 at the neck, signifying the university’s founding as one of the original colonial colleges under King George III of England.

Graduates of Cook College traditionally wear green academic robes, symbolizing the agricultural and environmental elements of the college’s mission.

Louis Brown Athletic Center: The university’s large athletic facility on the Livingston campus in Piscataway annually hosts Rutgers’ commencement exercises. The 8,500-seat arena, which is used for the university’s basketball program, was opened in the fall of 1977. In 1986, it was named by the university’s Board of Governors in memory of Louis Brown, an Edison resident and a 1936 alumnus of Rutgers College. Brown, who owned an industrial glove wholesale distributorship in Woodbridge, was an avid sports fan who “loved and believed in Rutgers,” a university official said. He died in 1984, leaving $1 million in his will to Rutgers. Brown had earlier donated $150,000 to the university to fund a locker room at Rutgers Stadium.