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Inaugural Traditions

A word that dates back to the mid-16th century, an “inauguration” is a rite of passage marking a “formal or ceremonial induction to an office or dignity.” Official collegiate presidential inaugurations in the United States originated with the nation’s nine colonial colleges in the 17th century and established the custom of formally acknowledging a change in leadership at a school’s highest level, within a context of continuity and tradition. At Rutgers, Abraham Bruyn Hasbrouck, the university’s sixth president who served from 1840 to 1850, was the first Rutgers president to be installed in what would be considered an inauguration ceremony. Over the years, inaugurations at Rutgers have offered an opportunity for the university community to unite in common purpose, to reflect on the past, and to envision a brighter future.

The origins of the academic regalia and other ceremonial objects used during inaugurations and other major university events, such as commencement, can be traced back to the world’s oldest institutions of higher learning. The following describes some of these objects and their histories.

The Coat of Arms of Rutgers,
The State University of New Jersey

The shield of the Rutgers coat of arms appears on the university gonfalon, which is borne at the head of all university processions by a faculty member.

The shield is quartered to represent in armorial bearings the founding and the growth of the more than 230-year-old university. The first quarter (dexter, or right upper quarter of the shield as one would carry it) bears the arms of Nassau, the House of Orange, and recognizes the Dutch settlers who founded the college under the aegis of the Dutch Reformed Church.

The armorial devices in the upper sinister quarter are those of George III combined with Queen Charlotte’s. George’s arms represent his dominions of England, Scotland, and Ireland; the two small escutcheons, centered, his ancestral right to bear the arms of Brunswick and Saxony. The crest on the dexter small escutcheon is the Crown of Charlemagne, which George III as Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire was entitled to show. It was George III who granted the Charter of 1766 to Queen’s College, named in honor of Charlotte of Mecklenburg, King George’s consort.

The arms shown on the sinister half of this quarter are Queen Charlotte’s and represent the German states ruled by the House of Mecklenburg.

The third quarter, dexter, is the emblem from the Great Seal of the State of New Jersey, which Rutgers as the state university is entitled to show. Fittingly, the plows depicted also symbolize Rutgers’ designation as one of the original land-grant colleges.

The fourth quarter, sinister, is the coat of arms of Colonel Henry Rutgers, an early benefactor of what was then known as Queen’s College. Colonel Rutgers was a descendant of Rutger Van Schoenderwoerdt, who settled in New York in the 17th century. The family name was changed to Rutgers in 1636. The name of the college was changed in 1825 to honor Colonel Rutgers, trustee and benefactor.


The University Mace

The university mace, an ornamental staff symbolizing the president’s authority, is borne before the president in academic processions by the secretary of the university.

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 Academic Costume

The wearing of academic dress dates back to the early days of the oldest universities in the world. In the American Council on Education’s book entitled American Universities and Colleges, it is suggested that “Gowns may have been counted necessary for warmth in the unheated buildings frequented by medieval scholars. Hoods seem to have served to cover the tonsured head. . . .”

Throughout the years, European universities have continued to show great diversity in their academic dress. American universities, on the other hand, when they decided to adopt academic dress, immediately established a code of regulations which today is followed by almost all American institutions. The establishment of this code has made it possible to distinguish the bachelors, masters, and doctors and, at the same time, recognize the university which has given them the degree.

Gowns: The bachelor’s gown has pointed sleeves and is worn closed. The master’s gown, worn open or closed, has oblong sleeves, the front part of which frequently is cut away at the elbow. The doctor’s gown has bell-shaped sleeves. It is worn open or closed. Cotton poplin or similar material is used for the bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and rayon or silk ribbed material is used for the doctor’s 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.

Hoods: The hoods vary in size: 48 inches for the doctor’s degree, 42 inches for the master’s, and 36 inches for the bachelor’s. All hoods are lined in silk in the academic color or colors of the institution conferring the degree. If the institution has more than one color, the colors are shown in divisions using chevrons. The binding or edge of the hood is usually made of velvet in the color designating the subject in which the degree was granted.

Below is a list of some of the faculty colors as prescribed by the Intercollegiate Code for the binding of the hood:

    Agriculture / Maize
    Arts, Letters, Humanities / White
    Business Administration, Commerce / Drab
    City and Regional Planning / Brown
    Communication and Information Studies / Gray
    Economics / Copper
    Education / Light Blue
    Engineering / Orange
    Fine Arts, Architecture / Brown
    Human Resources Management / Dusk
    Journalism / Dark Crimson
    Labor and Employment Relations / Peacock Blue
    Law / Purple
    Library Service / Lemon
    Medicine / Green
    Music / Pink
    Nursing / Apricot
    Oratory-Speech / Silver Gray
    Pharmacy / Olive Green
    Philosophy / Blue
    Physical Education / Sage Green
    Public Administration / Peacock Blue
    Science / Golden Yellow
    Social Service / Citron
    Theology and Divinity / Scarlet

The color or colors of the lining of the hood for the nine colonial colleges are: scarlet, Rutgers; crimson, Harvard; green-gold-silver, William and Mary; blue, Yale; red-blue, Pennsylvania; orange-black, Princeton; light blue-white, Columbia; brown, Brown; and green-white, Dartmouth.

Caps: Black mortarboards or soft hats are worn for all degrees. The gold tassel signifies a doctoral degree.


Alma Mater

On the Banks of the Old Raritan

My father sent me to old Rutgers,
And resolv’d that I should be a man;
And so I settled down, in that noisy college town,
On the banks of the Old Raritan.

Then sing aloud to alma mater,
And keep the Scarlet in the van;
For with our motto high, Rutgers name shall never die
On the banks of the Old Raritan.

From New Jersey’s northern lakes and mountains,
To our southern pines and gleaming shore;
Learning’s fair and hallowed place, joins us,
every creed and race,
And we praise the name of Rutgers evermore.

On the banks of the old Raritan, my friends,
Where old Rutgers evermore shall stand;
For has she not stood since the time of the flood,
On the banks of the old Raritan.