Academic Regalia

About Academic Costumes

Academic gowns represent a tradition, which comes from the universities of the Middle Ages. At that time, they were a common form of dress and were retained by the clergy when the laity adopted more modern styles. The early European universities were founded by the church; the students, being clerics, were obliged to wear the prescribed gowns at all times.  Many European universities have distinctive caps and gowns that differ from those commonly worn in the United States. Some of the gowns are of bright colors, and some are embellished with fur. The hoods are lined with the color of the institution which awarded the degree to the wearer. The color of the border or collar of the hood desig­nates the degree: Liberal Arts, white; Science, golden yellow; Philosophy, dark blue; Architecture, blue-violet; Art and Drama, brown; Divinity, scar­let; Engineering, orange; Forestry & Environmental Studies, russet; Law, purple; Management, sapphire blue; Medicine, green; Music, pink; Nursing, apricot; Public Health, salmon.  Members of the Yale Corporation wear blue velvet caps patterned after headgear of the University of Amsterdam.  The President has a distinctive blue gown approved by the Corporation and specially made for him.

The President’s Collar

Yale University President's Collar

The President’s Collar is of gold, silver, and enamel. There are eleven cloisonné and champlevé roundels which bear the arms of the Graduate School and the professional schools and three shields which bear the arms of the University and Yale College and the Great Seal of the United States. From the Collar is suspended a jewel composed of a pair of carved and polished glass medallions, back to back, between which floats a gold frag­ment embossed with the arms of the University. The gold mountings for the jewel are set with cloisonné enamel plaques, which bear the Hebrew characters referring to the sacred lots of the Bible, and the University’s motto, lux et veritas, based on an ancient Latin rendering of the Hebrew. 

The Mace and the Banners

Yale University Mace

The University Mace, emblem of the authority of the President and Fellows, was given to the University by Professor Samuel Simons Sanford, M.A.H. 1894, and has been used in academic processions since 1904.

The Mace, made of silver gilt, weighs twenty-four pounds and is forty-seven inches long. At the foot of the shaft is an acorn, out of which come oak leaves, the symbol of strength. These leaves sur­round a sphere on which appear the seal and name of the donor. On the shaft are engraved the names of all the Presidents of the University, now including President Salovey. Above the main shaft is a spherical section with a design of raised elm leaves sur­mounted by a cup that bears the arms of the University, of New Haven, of Connecticut, and of the United States. On the rim of the cup are four winged figures, which represent art, science, law, and theology. Rising above these figures is a deep blue sphere of lapis lazuli topped by a small pinecone, ancient symbol of immortality.

Other ceremonial maces are also carried in the procession as are heraldic banners representing each residential college and each school of the University. The faculty marshal of each residential college carries a distinctive mace especially designated for that college, while the student marshals carry wooden batons. Distinctive maces are also carried by faculty marshals of the Graduate School and the professional schools. Each college and each school of the University has its own heraldic banner.

The national, state, and city flags, the University, Yale College, and President’s banners, and the banners of the residential colleges, the Graduate School, and the professional schools are placed on the platform at the beginning of the inaugural ceremony.