The ceremonial academic mace appeared in European universities during the fourteenth century and represented the amalgamation of two much older staff-like devices of similar length and shape. These were the regal scepter and the medieval battle mace. Kings throughout history have carried scepters as insignia of the lawful authority of just rulers. The battle mace was first used by medieval princes as an effective hand weapon in combat.
In the fourteenth century, the royal scepter and the battle mace were combined to produce the ceremonial academic mace. It was carried before royalty, mayors of cities, and chief officers of the medieval universities.
In modern times, the mace is used on ceremonial occasions in the life of the university. In commencement exercises, the mace specifically indicates the authority of the university president to award degrees. The mace immediately precedes the presidential party in the ceremonial procession. The university announces the mace carriers prior to each ceremony.
The UAB mace is fashioned in three metals: brass, bronze, and stainless steel. The use of these metals--especially the stainless steel--is intended to signify Birmingham’s traditional role as an iron and steel producing center.
At the lower end of the mace are three medallions of enamel on copper. One medallion bears the image of the lamp of knowledge. Another bears the traditional symbol of the physician, the Caduceus (Aesculapius, Greco-Roman god of medicine, was embodied at the temple of Kos as a statue holding a serpent, a symbol of long life, healing, and knowledge. A staff and a second serpent were added later to form the Caduceus). The third medallion is the UAB logo in gold on a green enamel background with a red enamel glow on the collar to symbolize the molten metal characteristic of old Birmingham and its blast furnaces.
The UAB mace and its holder were commissioned, designed, and executed in 1989 by the noted Alabama sculptor, Cordray Parker, with the help of Heidi J. Bowman on the enameled medallions. The mace was made possible through the generosity of the late Samuel B. Barker, Ph.D., and his late wife, Justine. Dr. Barker, distinguished professor emeritus and dean emeritus of UAB, was the first dean of the UAB Graduate School and a leading patron of the arts in Birmingham.