Meet the Mace

Meet the Mace
Story by Charles Buchanan • Photos by Andrea Mabry, Jay Wilkins, Steve Wood, and Getty Images • Historical photos courtesy of UAB Archives • Web design by Tyler Bryant

Meet the Mace

Meet the Mace
Meet the Mace
Story by Charles Buchanan • Photos by Andrea Mabry, Jay Wilkins, Steve Wood, and Getty Images • Historical photos courtesy of UAB Archives • Web design by Tyler Bryant

Meet the Mace

Take a closer look at a UAB Commencement icon

Story by Charles Buchanan • Photos by Andrea Mabry, Jay Wilkins, Steve Wood, and Getty Images • Historical photos courtesy of UAB Archives • Web design by Tyler Bryant
There’s a moment during every UAB Commencement ceremony when a faculty member makes a grand entrance, carrying something that wouldn’t look out of place at Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. But the ceremonial academic mace is a UAB emblem through and through. Here’s a quick guide to its history and symbolism:

The mace is a work of art. Local art patrons Samuel Barker Ph.D.—the UAB Graduate School’s first dean—and his wife, Justine, commissioned it.

UAB’s mace debuted at the June 1989 Commencement, carried by Virginia Horns-Marsh, Ph.D., professor of education. Among faculty, being selected to carry the mace is a great honor.

The tradition of using maces, symbols of authority, in university ceremonies stretches back to 14th-century Europe.

It takes two hands to carry the mace, which is approximately four feet long and weighs 10 to 15 pounds.

It’s made of brass, bronze, and stainless steel—a nod to Birmingham’s history in iron and steel production.

Three medallions at the base feature the lamp of knowledge, the caduceus—the traditional symbol of the physician—and the UAB logo. The logo appears in gold on a green background, surrounded by a red enamel glow symbolizing the molten metal of Birmingham’s blast furnaces.

James Worrell, Ph.D., associate professor of accounting in the Collat School of Business, is creating a new cradle for the mace to rest in when it’s not being carried. He is making it out of wood from trees removed for campus construction.

Alabama sculptor Cordray Parker created it, with help from Heidi Bowman on the enameled medallions. In this 1980s photo, Parker (at right) stands with School of Medicine Dean James Pittman, M.D., next to Parker’s sculpture of legendary physician Tinsley Harrison, M.D.

Learn more about Commencement at UAB.

 

Published March 2020