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Last modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The inauguration ceremony: Centuries-old traditions with modern accents

The inauguration of Michael A. McRobbie on Thursday (Oct. 18) as Indiana University's 18th president will mark the institutional milestone with centuries-old traditions that include some contemporary accents.


Edwin Marshall

Edwin Marshall serves as the university marshal for University ceremonial occasions.

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Participants in the ceremony will don traditional academic dress that dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries, when universities were being formed. Scholars then wore simple robes with hoods, which eventually gave way to more colorful and varied attire. By the 19th century, universities in the United States standardized the practice of trimming hoods with color, designating disciplines with specific hues. Red, a traditional color of the church, for example, signifies theology. Green, the color of medieval herbs, represents medicine. Golden yellow was assigned to the sciences, symbolizing the "wealth which scientific research has produced," according to American Universities and Colleges, which lists 27 colors, such as purple (law), drab (business) and peacock blue (public and environmental affairs), for various disciplines. The robes of American scholars typically are black, unlike those of their European peers. The style of the hood and the cut of the gown reflect the highest degree earned by the wearer. In addition to the velvet edging, hoods are lined in the colors of the institution from which the degree was received.

Institutions often have unique apparel for the president and the trustees, and IU is no exception. As is IU tradition, Michael McRobbie will wear a presidential robe of his own design. Made from crimson gabardine, it is accented down the front with black velvet, and its sleeves are adorned with black velvet chevrons trimmed with narrow gold piping. He will wear the blue velvet hood of the Ph.D. lined with the blue and yellow of the Australian National University, the institution from which he received his Ph.D. The president will wear a black velvet beefeater cap with the Ph.D. blue tassel.

IU trustees wear crimson robes and a distictive cream-colored velvet hood.

Indiana University Mace

Indiana University Mace

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Marshals and emblems

At IU, commencements, inaugurations, the installation of chancellors, Founders Day and freshmen induction ceremonies all feature a traditional, robed procession. The inaugural procession, which will traverse two aisles in the IU auditorium, is expected to last around 20 minutes. It will be led by University Grand Marshal Edwin C. Marshall, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and professor of optometry, who will be unmistakable in his elaborate white satin brocade robe adorned with a golden sash.University Grand Marshal is a presidential appointment. Ed Marshall was chosen by IU's immediate past president, Adam W. Herbert,to serve in the position.

As he leads the procession, Marshall will carry the Mace, another symbol of authority dating back to medieval times, when it was a studded, club-like weapon that was made of iron and could break armor. It later would be used in processions of city mayors and other dignitaries, and became an emblem of order and authority during academic ceremonies. The staff of IU's Mace is 30 inches long and made of polished ebony encircled with four brass, gold-plated collars and entwined by swirled gold bands. Atop the staff is a globe of plated brass with four flat sides. The sides of the globe are embossed with IU's seal, the seal of the state of Indiana, the emblematic initials "IU," and the donor inscription. The Mace was presented to the university by Indiana Alpha of Phi Delta Theta in 1949. Mounted on the globe of the Mace are 12 large synthetic jewels of blue sapphire, ruby, garnet and topaz. Atop this rests an eagle with outstretched wings.

The Jewel and Chain of Office, which will be presented to McRobbie during the investiture, is worn by the university president at ceremonial occasions. The Jewel of Office is handcrafted of gold-plated sterling silver and precious jewels. Each part of the design has a symbolic meaning that reflects IU's historic origin and educational mission, noting such things as the number of states in the Union when the university was founded in 1820 (22 states), the year Indiana became a state (1816), and the years that mark IU's evolution from a seminary to a university (1820, 1828 and 1838). The jewels in the item include emeralds, sapphires, topaz, rubies and diamonds. The Jewel of Office was presented to the university in 1946 by the Pi Chapter of Beta Theta Pi. The Chain of Office was donated to the university in 1958 by the Lambda Chapter of Sigma Chi. The chain is handcrafted of gold-plated sterling silver and contains 44 linked panels, eight of which are engraved with the names of the presidents who have served the university since the Jewel of Office was first worn as the symbol of the presidency. Laurie Burns McRobbie, IU's first lady, will assist in affixing the Jewel and Chain of Office onto her husband's robe.

The Jewel and Chain of Office of Indiana University

The Jewel and Chain of Office of Indiana University

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The procession

Although the delegates representing colleges and universities from across the country and national learned societies usually line up in order of their institutional founding dates (oldest first), this procession will be headed by eight presidents of Indiana colleges and universities who are attending the ceremony. They are James L. Edwards, Anderson University; Bobby Fong, president of Butler University; Ronald E. Manahan, Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary; Richard B. Gilman, Holy Cross College; Thomas J. Snyder, Ivy Tech Community College; Jo Young Switzer, Manchester College; France A. Córdova, Purdue University; and David G. Behrs, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Next into the hall will be a group of delegates representing the faculty, students and staff from IU's eight campuses. Adam W. Herbert, in a break with tradition, asked that staff be invited to participate in an inaugural procession and to speak during the ceremony, although staff are routinely included in other ceremonies. Michael McRobbie also has requested that staff be represented, and that honor will fall to Yolanda Treviño, assistant dean of the University Graduate School. McRobbie also will follow Herbert's lead in having the academic deans from all of IU's campuses lead in the faculty delegates.

Brevity and an international flavor

The inauguration is expected to last about 90 minutes and will feature a variety of musical performances, including a fanfare composed by Professor of Music David Dzubay and played by the IU Herald Trumpeters; a processional and recessional by Professor of Music Christopher Young on the organ; a solo by Jacobs School Senior Lecturer Sylvia NcNair; and selections by the IU Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Professor of Music David Effron.

The ceremony will feature greetings by local and state dignitaries and the presence of five former IU presidents: John W. Ryan, IU's 14th president; Thomas Ehrlich, IU's 15th president; Myles Brand, IU's 16th president; Adam W. Herbert, IU's 17th president; and Gerald L. Bepko, interim president between Brand and Herbert.

In an effort to reflect the international flavor of the university, the flags of other countries will adorn the IU auditorium balcony. In addition, 10 international universities will be represented by delegates -- American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, The Australian National University, Autonomous University of the State of Hidalgo in Mexico, the University of London, Mahasarakham University in Thailand, Moi University in Kenya, The University of Queensland in Australia, South East European University in Macedonia, Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, and the University of Toronto. With all the pomp and celebrating, inauguration remains a ceremonial occasion, albeit an important one.