About the Procession

A college with regard for academic tradition opens its year with an assembly of scholars and students in convocation. At the end of that year, the graduation of students from one academic status to the next higher is likewise marked by ceremony. It is then that first-year students become sophomores; sophomores, juniors; juniors, seniors; and seniors, holders of the baccalaureate degree.

Sawyer Sylvester bears the mace during the 2004 procession.

At Bates College such ceremonies are conducted with the pageantry characteristic of their medieval sources. The mace, an ancient symbol of power and authority, is borne by the senior faculty member leading the academic procession. The College mace was fashioned by Mr. Leverett H. Cutten and is the gift of the Class of 1904. It is engraved with the names of the Bates presidents. Two-thirds of the way up the staff, on a bulge known as the knop, raised lettering indicates the major divisions of liberal-arts studies at Bates: fine arts, natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Just above the knop is a sphere woven of thirty-six strips of silver, the number of states of the Union when the College was founded. On the head of the mace are the armorial bearings of Bates, the City of Lewiston, the State of Maine, and the United States of America. At the top is a large garnet, the gem and color of the College.

Clayton Spencer, President

Following the Mace Bearer in the academic procession is the President of the College, wearing a collar signifying her office. Like the mace, the silver and gold collar was made by Mr. Cutten and was given to the College by the Class of 1904. The links, in the shape of pine cones and tassels (the state flower of Maine), enclose the letter B. The links alternate with ten books, each engraved with a symbol of a different academic field of study, and end in a sunburst with a large garnet in the center. The pendant of the collar has, at the top, on the boss of a Greek shield, a drachma showing the goddess Athena; and below this, the crest of the arms of the State of Maine, the North Star. The arms of the College are displayed in the center of the pendant.

The order of the academic procession is as follows: faculty in active service and professors emeriti, led by two faculty marshals and followed by the senior officers of the college, proceed after the President, the Trustees, and honorary degree recipients. The graduating class, last in the procession, is led into the ceremonies by two junior marshals (elected by the junior class) who will become senior marshals next year. At the ceremony’s end, the graduates are led away by their senior marshals, elected by them last year.

Both faculty and students wear academic dress prescribed by the highest degree attained. The bachelor’s gown is black with pointed open sleeves, while the master’s gown, also black, has short sleeves closed at the elbow with long false sleeves cut in an arc. The doctor’s gown has long bell-shaped sleeves and, though usually black, may be of a color indicating the university awarding the degree. It is faced with velvet and has three velvet bars on the sleeves. The colors bordering the hoods on academic gowns indicate the field of study in which the degree was taken.

As the bachelor-of- arts hood at Oxford and Cambridge was trimmed in lamb’s wool or rabbit’s fur, hoods of arts and letters graduates today are edged in white. It has been said that the preoccupation of alchemists with turning base metals into gold accounts for the yellow of the science graduate’s hood, and the green of medicinal herbs for the green of the hood of a graduate in medicine. The red of theology has been a traditional color of churches, while blue has long been associated with the faculty of philosophy, and purple with the faculty of law. Among other academic colors are the light blue of education, pink of music, and brown of fine arts.

Another tradition to which Bates College adheres is that of having a seal, or – more properly – a coat of arms. In heraldic terms it may be described as: A shield, per pale; the sinister half, per fess. On the dexter side, a pine tree with a stag at the foot of it, lodged. On the sinister chief, an open book; and on the sinister base, a sheaf of grain. Surmounted by a crest, a lighted lamp. And the motto: Amore ac Studio, “With ardor and devotion.”

In recent years at Bates, the processional has marched to the Quad accompanied by the Sonata from Die Bänkelsängerlieder by Daniel Speer, performed by the Portland Brass quintet. The Commencement recessional is typically “Praise the Lord with Drums and Cymbals” by Siegfried Karg-Elert. At the opening Convocation in the fall, the quintet usually performs “The Rejoicing” by George Frederick Handel.