Inaugural Traditions

The etymology of the word inauguration may be traced back to the 1560s, from the French inauguration – meaning “installation, consecration” – and is directly linked to the Latin word inauguration (nom. inauguration) meaning “consecration, installment under good omens.”

In the United States, collegiate presidential inaugurations originated with the nation’s nine colonial colleges in the 17th century.  The inauguration of a new university president serves as a rite of passage that formally acknowledges a change in leadership within the context of continuity and tradition.

The inauguration of Dr. Barbara Childers McMillin provides Blue Mountain College with an occasion to honor its past, celebrate its present strengths, and envisage its future.  Dr. McMillin will unveil her vision for the future of Blue Mountain College in her address during the Inauguration ceremony.


The Investiture Ceremony

The Investiture Ceremony formally inducts Dr. McMillin as Blue Mountain College’s eighth president.  Delegates representing other universities, learned societies and BMC faculty will come together to form the processional.  Tradition holds that delegates will be placed in the processional based on the order in which their institutions were founded.  Attendees at the investiture ceremony will include BMC staff and students; local, state, and nationally elected leaders; and those who have a vested interest in the future success of Blue Mountain College.

The origins of the academic regalia and other ceremonial objects used during inaugurations and other major university events, including commencement, can be traced back to the world’s oldest institutions of higher learning.  The following information includes descriptions of some ceremonial objects and their histories.


Academic Regalia

The colorful attire worn by the participants in the academic procession has its roots in medieval traditions that reach back to the earliest universities in Paris, Bologna, Oxford, and Cambridge.  The precise origins of the various parts that constitute academic garb are unknown; however, since medieval students enjoyed the status of clerics during their university years, it can be assumed that their attire was inspired by the clerical dress of the time.  Early European universities required students and teachers to wear distinctive gowns at all times.  The tradition of wearing similar attire was brought to the United States during colonial times, but the requirement for students to wear academic regalia soon disappeared and professors only donned their regalia during special occasions.


The Gown

The ceremonial robes – modernized with colors and varying sleeve lengths to signify degree and rank – began as monks’ robes worn to stave off the cold in drafty, cloistered monasteries.  Gowns are generally black, and there are three basic types.  The bachelor’s gown is plain; includes long, pointed sleeves and may be worn with an elaborate yoke.  The master’s gown is similar to the bachelor’s except that the sleeves are open at the forearms and end with an extra, square-shaped swatch of cloth that originally formed a pocket to store reading and writing materials.  The doctoral gown, the most elaborate of the three, is adorned with velvet panels on the closed front and around the neck as well as three velvet chevrons on each full, bell-shaped sleeve.  Although black is the most common color for doctoral gowns, the velvet panels and chevrons may vary in color.


The Hood

The colors of the hood reveal the level of a degree, the major field of learning in which the degree was awarded, and the institution that conferred the degree.  The bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral hoods are three, three and one-half, and four feet long, respectively.  The all-encompassing velvet trim that denotes the field of learning is likewise two, three, or five inches, respectively.  The lining of the hood is worn exposed to show the colors of the school awarding the degree.  Most schools have a two-color pattern and the hoods feature the use of chevrons or bars to differentiate schools whose colors may be alike or very similar.



Arts, Letters, Humanities






Drab/Brown or Gray



Silver Gray





Dark/Royal Blue


Light Blue


Public Health





Physical Education

Sage Green

Fine Arts, Dramatic Arts




Golden Yellow/Gold




Social Science, Social Work


Library Science

Lemon Yellow



Silver Gray

Mathematics, Psychology



Theology, Divinity

















The Cap

Generally, the mortarboard of Oxford cap is worn with all degrees, although an Elizabethan-style soft cap is used with some doctoral attire.  Black tassels are most often used, but many schools have adopted the practice of using tassels that match the hood color.  Doctors and presidents of institutions frequently wear a gold tassel.


The Mace

The tradition of the mace can be dated to the Middle Ages when guards of kings and other high officials used a mace as an element of protection.  The mace came to symbolize strength and authority and, gradually, universities and colleges adopted its use to show the right of academic institutions to grant degrees to graduates.

The mace was commissioned by former president Bettye Rogers Coward for her inauguration in 2001.

The Blue Mountain College mace embodies the traditions and symbols which have been associated with the institution from its founding.  The carved wood flame on a triangular base at the head of the staff represents the "light" envisioned by the College's founder, Mark Perrin Lowrey, as he sought "to illuminate the lives of the girls with the light of truth, knowledge, and understanding."  The Seal of the College with its inherent motto "Truth, Knowledge, and Virtue" is engraved on brass plates on each side of the triangle.  The remainder of the mace consists of a walnut wood turned taper and fluted staff representing the faculty and staff who serve in support of the mission and goals of the College.

The mace is traditionally carried by the grand marshal at the head of the procession during official convocations.  When not being used for ceremonial purposes, it is on display in the Office of the President of the College.

The Presidential Medallion

The Presidential Medallion was also commissioned by then president Bettye Rogers Coward.  The medallion symbolizes the authority of the Office of the President as well as the President's responsibility to the academic community.

The bronze medallion incorporates the major elements of the Seal of Blue Mountain College.  The motto of the College, "Truth, Knowledge, and Virtue," is inscribed around the "B" logo formed by a column and dove.  The outer text proclaims that Blue Mountain College has been carrying out its mission since 1873.  A decorative bezel encompasses the medallion.

The Chain of Office includes a banner for the current president as well as individual banners on which are engraved the names and dates of administration of each of the seven former presidents.  The chain which is embellished with fleur-de-lis and leaf clusters completes a full loop.

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