The Presidential Chain of Office
Chains of office are one of the oldest symbols of authority and were worn as early as the days of the Roman Empire. The tradition of a chain of office has become a treasured part of higher education. It represents the authority of the college president and is worn during official celebrations, such as the inauguration of a new president, academic convocations and commencements.
Each chain of office is as unique as the institution it represents.
The Empire State College chain of office is formed with links that support a center medallion representing the official seal of the college. Directly above the medallion is a plate with the word “President” inscribed. There are additional plates on each side inscribed with the names of the former presidents of Empire State College.
Empire State College’s medallion is a flat, silver disc emblazoned with the college seal. It was presented to the founding president, James W. Hall, on the occasion of Empire State College’s 20th anniversary in April 1991 by the Alumni Student Association.
Academic regalia has a long and esteemed history, dating back to medieval Europe. A statute written in 1321 required all “Doctors, Licentiates and Bachelors” of the University of Coimbra, in Portugal, to wear gowns. It is unknown whether the origins of regalia are ecclesiastical or secular. Gowns also may have been worn by medieval scholars in part to keep warm in the unheated buildings where they met and studied.
The American Academy standardized academic apparel at Columbia University in May 1895, when a conference of representatives of the governing boards of various institutions established regulations for colleges and universities in the United States.
Academic garb now is governed by the Intercollegiate Code. The color, shape and material of regalia denotes the degree and position of its wearer. The color of the trim on a doctor’s gown, and the hood edging and cap tassel, are dictated by the wearer’s specific area of study.
For example, arts, letters and humanities call for white; commerce, accounting and business, olive brown; and education, light blue.
The mace has its roots in the Middle Ages as a weapon used to protect processions of eminent personages, such as kings and religious leaders. Over time, the mace came to symbolize authority and today is carried at the head of ceremonial academic processions, such as inaugurations.
While many are ornate, Empire State College’s mace is a simple, classic design that features a wood staff and head and a metal inset of the college seal.
New York artisans designed the mace in the mid1980s and its holder in 2001.