Inaugural Traditions

Significance of Academic Regalia for Colleges and Universities

Since the Middle Ages, a time-honored tradition of great dignity has been the wearing of academic apparel, which was a survival of still earlier civilian fashions. The academic gown, necessary for a scholar’s warmth, and the hood to protect his tonsured head were apparently first regularly adopted in the thirteenth century at the University of Cambridge (1284). The University of Oxford was soon to follow. The custom was transplanted to this country in colonial times by King’s College in New York, now Columbia University.

In 1895 American universities and colleges decided to standardize their academic styles and developed the intercollegiate code of academic costume, following primarily the Cambridge tradition. The characteristic elements of academic regalia are three: gown, cap, and hood.

The gown is usually of black material (serge or worsted for bachelors, the same or silk for masters, and silk for doctors). The doctors’ dress gowns of the chief British universities are scarlet. Bachelors’ gowns have pointed sleeves; masters’ have long, closed sleeves, with lunettes at the bottom and slits at the elbows from which the arms protrude; and doctors’ have wide, round, open sleeves. Doctors’ gowns are faced with panels of velvet down the front and three bars of velvet across each sleeve.

The cap, the square mortar-board in American universities but a round, soft, flat, velvet hat in British, Canadian, and some European universities, bears a tassel that may be black for all ranks and degrees or may be of gold thread for doctors and the color of the degree for bachelors and masters only. The doctors’ cap may be of velvet.

The hood, worn around the neck so as to hang down the back, is the principal emblem of the nature and source of the degree and may be worn only after the degree has been granted. Bachelors’ hoods are three feet long; masters’ are three and one-half feet; and doctors’ hoods have wide panels at the sides. The color edging the hood defines the nature of the degree while the lining of silk bears the colors of the institution that granted the degree.

The degree colors are appropriate to the category of the degree rather than to the scholar’s major subject. For example, the appropriate color for degrees in Arts and Letters (B.A., M.A., B.Litt.) is white; in Commerce, drab; in Education, light blue; in Engineering, orange; in Fine Arts, brown; in Humanities, crimson; in Laws, purple; in Library Science, lemon; in Medicine, green; in Music, pink; in Pharmacy, olive; in Philosophy (Ph.D.), dark blue; in Physical Education, sage; in Science, golden yellow; in Theology, scarlet. These colors are used for the edging of all hoods and may be used for the velvet facing and sleeve bars of doctors’ gowns and for the tassels on bachelors’ and masters’ caps.

The institutional colors with which the hoods are lined indicate the university or college granting the degree. Among those hoods you will see worn by Delta State’s faculty are those from Alabama, crimson and white; Arkansas, red and white; Central Missouri, red, white, and black; Columbia, light blue with white chevron; Duke, royal blue with white chevron; Emory, navy blue and gold; Florida, orange and blue; Indiana, crimson with white chevron; Louisiana State, purple with old gold; Michigan, maize and light blue; Mississippi, red with blue chevron; Mississippi State, maroon and white; Missouri, old gold and black; Southern Mississippi, gold and black; Tennessee, white with orange chevron; Texas, white above orange; Tulane, green and white; and Virginia, navy blue with orange.

The colors of Delta State University are green and white, adopted in the fall of 1925, the first quarter after opening, by the faculty and administration on the recommendation of an eight-member committee, including local residents William P. Moses and Doyle Garrett.

University Mace

The mace in medieval times was often carried by kings, bishops, and other officials into battle where it was used as a weapon. Gradually, the mace came to be used more for ceremonial occasions than for actual combat. In modern times, the mace is most frequently seen in legislative chambers and in academic or religious processions. Used in this fashion, the mace is a symbol denoting authoruty.

The mace, carried at the head of the Inaugural Procession by the Delta State University Chief Marshal, was designed and carved from solid walnut in 1972 by Duncan Baird while he was an art student at Delta State University.

Presidential Medallion

Historically, medallions or medals have been used to recognize significant achievement in various fields such as the humanities, the arts and sciences, and the military. In more recent times, medallions have also been employed as commemorative designs used to help celebrate a significant occaion. Such an occasion is the inauguration of Mr. William N. LaForge as eighth president of Delta State University. The Presidential Medallion he wears was designed in 1972 by Edward W. Gong while majoring in commercial art at Delta State University.