Commencent Traditions

The Ceremonial Mace

In the academic ceremony, the mace is a symbolic relic of feudal days, when it was carried by the most trusted knight of the realm, who was selected by the lord of the castle to protect him in battle and serve as his personal bodyguard. It now symbolizes the traditions and principles of the institution using it. At Montevallo, it is carried in the academic ceremony by the grand marshal, who is appointed by the president. It is engraved with the date of the founding of the University, A.D. 1896. On each of the eight “horns” of the mace are Latin inscriptions representing the concepts of honor, industry, faith, love, fortitude, dedication, virtue, and responsibility.

The University of Montevallo ceremonial mace was executed in 1970 by the silversmith Dr. Franck Kiss of Homewood, Alabama.

The Presidential Medallion

The President of the University of Montevallo wears a medallion that symbolizes the authority of his office and his responsibility of leadership of the academic community.

Academic Regalia

The history of academic dress can be traced to 1312, when gowns were required at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. The wearing of a long gown was prescribed in England in the second half of the fourteenth century. It has been suggested that the gowns may have been necessary for warmth in the unheated buildings which were used by the medieval scholars. Since all scholars were churchmen in the middle ages, much of the academic costume retains vestiges of ecclesiastical attire.

The bachelor’s gown has a closed front and long, pointed, open sleeves. The master’s gown is distinguished by closed sleeves (the arm coming through a slit at the elbow) which are square at the end and extend well below the knee. The doctor’s gown has full, round, open bell-shaped sleeves, is faced with velvet and carries three bars of velvet on each sleeve. Generally the velvet is black, but some robes are decorated in velvet of the color of the individual’s academic discipline.

The bachelor’s degree generally confers no hood with the academic costume; the master’s hood is short, has narrow velvet edging and carries the school colors in either silk or gabardine. The doctoral hood is easily recognized by its length, the width of the velvet edging, the wide panels at either side, and the full exposure of the lining. The hoods are lined with silk of the colors of the college or university granting the degree and trimmed with velvet of the color representing the degree (Ph.D., Ed.D., etc.) or the department of learning in which the degree was obtained.

The academic cap or mortarboard is derived from caps worn in medieval times by members of the clergy. They are traditionally black with a black tassel, with the exception of the doctoral cap, which has a gold tassel.


The gonfalon is a banner suspended from a crosspiece, especially as a standard in an ecclesiastical procession, such as academic commencement exercises. There is one gonfalon for each of the four colleges used in the processional and recessional of the graduates.

Alma Mater

Alma Mater, ever glorious, Seeking Right and Freedom’s way, Raise a beacon high to guide us: Shed thy light afar we pray. Sons and daughters sing thy praises, Steadfast virtues win the fame, May the years be rich and fruitful, Truth and honor crown thy name.


The school’s first commencement, which was held in late May of 1897, gave evidence of some of the accomplishments of the year. The Shelby Sentinal reported that “from the commencement sermon on the Sabbath to the closing exercises on Wednesday was demonstrated most forcibly the wonderful success that has been marked the career of this splendid institution during its first year.”

Certain customs of this period, remembered with fondness by alumnae, centered around commencement, which was a protracted affair. there was a reception on Saturday; students descended the grand stairway into the lobby of Main–students in their loveliest gowns, of course– and were received by the governor of Alabama, the college president and his wife, and whatever other dignitaries were mustered for the occasion. On Sunday after the baccalaureate sermon, there was a vespers service; graduates in their caps and gowns singing by candlelight walked up the drive to Flowerhilll, where they were greeted by the president. it was a beautiful ceremony by all accounts.