What is an Investiture

An investiture is a formal ceremony that confers the authority and symbols of high office. It is typically held during the new president’s first year in office, or at the conclusion of the first year. As with many academic traditions, the investiture has symbolized the pursuit of knowledge since its earliest recorded existence in the Middle Ages. Today, universities around the world hold investitures both to celebrate and to formally acknowledge entrance into a new era.

Investitures are dignified ceremonies that include many academic traditions and protocols including a procession, the wearing of academic regalia, and formal greetings from members of the university community.

Academic Regalia

The tradition of caps and gowns at formal academic events began in the damp and drafty halls of early European churches, castles, and other halls of learning. Students, monks and faculty initially wore them to stay warm, but as time went on these robes and headwear took on special meaning. In 1895, American universities adopted a standard form of academic dress to be worn at formal ceremonies such as commencements and investitures. The colorful assortment of caps, gowns and hoods symbolize the degrees and institutions of university presidents and their academic colleagues.

University Mace

In academic ceremonies, the mace is symbolic of university authority, transcending the tenure of individual presidents. Protocol requires the use of the mace in the processional and recessional of major academic ceremonies.

Designed in 1968 by NIU art professor Bill Haendel, the NIU presidential mace was first used at the inauguration of President Rhoten Smith. The graceful walnut staff originally featured a four-sided head engraved with quotations from ancient philosophers, writers and founding fathers. In an effort to bring new life to the mace tradition, President Freeman asked students, faculty, staff and alumni to suggest quotations that resonate more meaningfully with today's university community. School of Art professor James Obermeier and his students reconstructed the mace to include six sides, each bearing a quotation about university life and the role of education in a free society.

New Mace Quotes

"Public education is our greatest pathway to opportunity in America. So we need to invest in and strengthen our public universities today, and for generations to come." —Michelle Obama

"Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough people, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth having." —Ronald Reagan

"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no educationat all." —Aristotle

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education." —Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Education does not change the world. Education changes the people who will change the world." —Paulo Freire

"Forward, Together Forward." —NIU Fight Song

University Medallion

The presidential medallion is bestowed upon the university's chief executive during the investiture ceremony. It is then worn by the president at commencements and other important academic functions. The NIU medallion was designed in 1968 for the inauguration of the late President Rhoten Smith, and its modernistic appearance strongly reflects the prevailing design aesthetic of the period. The six ounce, five-and-a-half inch medallion was created in wax and then cast in 14-karat yellow gold by the late NIU Art Professor Eleanor Caldwell. It features the initials of the university and a 19-karat star ruby.

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