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Academic Dress

In 1896, the colleges and universities in the United States adopted a uniform code governing academic dress. Those who are receiving a master’s or doctor’s degree from the University of Colorado wear hoods lined with the university colors, silver and gold. The velvet border of the hood indicates the degree and usually follows the same code as the color of the tassels.

The Oxford cap, usually referred to as a mortarboard, has a long tassel that is fastened by a button on the top. Candidates for baccalaureate degrees wear the tassel pendant over the right front of the cap before the degree is conferred, and over the left thereafter. The color of the tassel on the bachelor’s cap indicates the field of study, with the exception of the BA degree whose candidates wear white tassels indicating the arts.

Tassel Colors
Architecture and Planning: Blue-Violet
Arts: White
Business: Sapphire Blue
Doctor of Philosophy: Dark Blue
Education: Light Blue
Engineering: Orange
Fine Arts: Brown
Journalism: Crimson
Law: Purple
Library Science: Lemon Yellow
Music: Pink
Science: Gold

More information regarding academic dress can be found on the Willsie Company web site.

The Norlin Charge to the Graduates

George NorlinThe first commencement at the University of Colorado was held for six graduates on June 8, 1882, in the chapel of Old Main. It was not until 40 years later, on September 4, 1922, that the first summer commencement was held. Since the first commencement in 1882, 311,107 degrees have been awarded by the University of Colorado at Boulder. The traditional Norlin Charge to the graduates was read by the late President George Norlin to the June 1935 graduating class.

“You are now certified to the world at large as alumni of the university. She is your kindly mother and you her cherished sons and daughters.

This exercise denotes not your severance from her, but your union with her. Commencement does not mean, as many wrongly think, the breaking of ties and the beginning of life apart. Rather, it marks your initiation in the fullest sense into the fellowship of the university, as bearers of her torch, as centers of her influence, as promoters of her spirit.

The university is not the campus, not the buildings on the campus, not the faculties, not the students of any one time — not one of these or all of them. The university consists of all who come into and go forth from her halls, who are touched by her influence and who carry on her spirit. Wherever you go, the university goes with you. Wherever you are at work, there is the university at work.

What the university purposes to be, what it must always strive to be, is represented on its seal, which is stamped on your diplomas — a lamp in the hands of youth. If its light shines not in you and from you, how great is its darkness! But if it shines in you today, and in the thousands before you, who can measure its power?

With hope and faith, I welcome you into the fellowship. I bid you farewell only in the sense that I pray you may fare well. You go forth but not from us. We remain but not severed from you. God go with you and be with you and us.”


Alma Mater

Hail, all hail our Alma Mater!
Ever will our hearts be true:
You will live with us forever,
Loyal we will be to you.
We will sing forever your praises,
Ever more our love renew,
Pledge our whole devotion to you.
Dear old CU!

The Presidential Chain of Office and the University Mace

Dean Williams holding the Commencement MaceThe Presidential Chain of Office and the University Mace were created by Mary Sartor, M.F.A., University of Colorado at Boulder. Both were gifts to the university by Mr. and Mrs. David G. Hawthorn, Class of 1924.

Colorado gold and silver are used in both pieces to symbolize the importance of these minerals to the history of the state. The chain’s gem stones also consist entirely of minerals from Colorado.

The chain, created in 1980 for the inauguration of President Arnold R. Weber, holds three suspended pendants. The back pendant is the seal of the state of Colorado surrounded by a golden ribbon representing the golden circle of knowledge. The top pendant in the front is the seal of the University of Colorado surmounted by an arch set with diamonds and topaz, signifying the necessary link between the search for knowledge and its practical application to the world beyond the university. The laurel wreaths that decorate the bottom of the seal symbolize honor and success. At the center of the bottom pendant is a gold topaz indicating humankind's quest for knowledge. The surrounding ring is paved with fragmented cubes and diamonds.

The University of Colorado mace was created for the commencement ceremonies of May 1984. The foot of the scepter is encased in sterling silver bound in 14-karat gold, ending in an intaglio of the seal of Colorado. The shaft of the mace was carved from a black walnut tree thought to have been one of the saplings given to the settlers of the Colorado Territory by President Abraham Lincoln. Sterling silver is also used in the crown, and the university seal is bound in gold and supported by an inner rod of gold surrounded by eight arching tapered silver ribs. At the base, the motto of the university, translated as “Let your light shine,” circles the crown in Greek characters. The wooden staff is bound at uneven intervals in gold and silver rings.

The University Seal

In its history, the University of Colorado has used three different seals. The current seal, adopted in 1908, depicts a male Greek classical figure sitting in front of a pillar and holding a scroll. Next to the figure, laurel branches frame a burning torch. The inscription in Greek reads “Let Your Light Shine.” The seal’s designer, Henry Read of Denver, chose the classical motif because Greek civilization “stands as the criterion of culture.” The laurel symbolizes honor or success; the youth suggests the “morning of life”; and the scroll represents written language.

From 1893 to 1908, the university seal was a copy of Wyon’s medallion, “Science Trims the Lamp of Life.” In this version, a Greek woman knelt before a lamp, and stalks of mariposa lilies decorated the border. Before 1893, an adaptation of the Colorado State Seal was used, but it was never adopted by the Board of Regents.

The seal is used primarily on official documents, such as diplomas and transcripts that have been issued on behalf of the university. The Board of Regents uses the seal on its official documents and publications. The seal also appears on the President’s Chain of Office, the University Mace, Regent regalia, and various formal publications.