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New Mexico State University

Traditions

Investiture

At American universities, an inauguration of a new president is much more than just a formal investiture ceremony. It provides opportunities for students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, friends and donors to celebrate all the elements of the university and move forward together.

Historically, investiture has been defined as the "formal ceremony of conferring the authority and symbols of high office." It is an ancient academic ceremony which has symbolized the pursuit of knowledge since the Middle Ages.

New Mexico State University is proud to celebrate the inauguration of Dr. Barbara Couture as its 25th president and to share this historic event with all of those with a stake in the future of the university. Attendees will include the NMSU community as well as delegates from national learned, professional and honor societies; delegates from colleges and universities throughout the nation; local, state and national community leaders and elected officials; and others.

As is tradition at most universities, the ceremonial endowment of the presidential powers is taking place after the official appointment of Dr. Couture as president. This delay allows time for planning, as well as time for dignitaries to be invited. Inauguration ceremonies serve not only as opportunities for a university to look ahead to its future while honoring its traditions, but also as official recognition of a president's entrance into the nation's academic leadership.

The investiture ceremony for Dr.Couture will be held during the joint inauguration and fall convocation event on August 17 at 9 a.m. in the Corbett Center Student Union Ballrooms on the Las Cruces campus. It will serve to unite the entire university family, welcoming a new era and a shared vision of its future.

Academic Regalia

The wearing of academic regalia dates back to the 12th century. Scholars were usually monks or priests and their ordinary dress, whether student or teacher, was the dress of a cleric. Over time, the attire became a tradition and universities began to call for it on formal occasions. In the 16th century, Oxford and Cambridge began prescribing a definite academic dress, and much remains the same today.

The baccalaureate gown is identified by long pointed sleeves. The master's gown has a very long sleeve, closed at the bottom, and the arm of the wearer is placed through an opening in the front of the sleeve. Doctoral gowns are distinguished by velvet panels around the neck and down the front of the gown. Three horizontal velvet bars on each sleeve also may mark the doctorate.

As for headwear, the academic cap is a sign of freedom of scholarship; the color of the tassel denotes the discipline or the degree. The colorful hoods worn by master and doctoral graduates represent the specific degree earned and the degree-granting institution. The hood is trimmed with one or more chevrons of a secondary color on the ground of the primary color of the college. The color of the facing denotes the discipline represented by the degree; the color of the lining indicates where the degree was earned.

The colors assigned to fields of learning were standardized in 1932 by the Intercollegiate Bureau of Academic Costume. Examples include golden yellow for sciences, orange for engineering, light blue for education, maize for agriculture, gray-tan for business administration, and white for arts, letters and humanities.

Presidential Medallion

One of the grand traditions of higher education is the presentation of the presidential medallion, which signals the beginning of a newly appointed president's tenure in office. An academic symbol of the authority and responsibility of the presidency, the medallion is usually worn by the new president during their inauguration.

Joe Barela, a local artist renowned for his work, handcrafted the current medallion. It displays the university seal on one side and the NMSU logo on the other. Made of pure silver with a gold tint, the medallion will now be presented to incoming presidents at future inaugurations.


Mace

Mace

The ceremonial mace, believed to have descended from the royal scepter and the medieval battle mace, is a traditional symbol of the authority held by the president of a university. NMSU's mace is carried at formal occasions by the president of the Faculty Senate.

Literal and symbolic information about the university is incorporated into the design of the sterling silver, meter-long piece. The blooming cactus flower that crowns NMSU's mace represents the institution's blossoming into maturity. The smooth, rounded walls of adobe architecture are called to mind in the next section, while a disk carries the "triangle" NMSU logo-in service from 1970 to 2005-on one side and a Mimbres pottery design on the other. The bundled rods of the shaft reflect the multiple academic disciplines; within the center of the shaft is a piece of wood from McFie Hall, the university's first building, destroyed by fire in 1910.