Symbols and traditions make Emory's Commencement unique

Before Commencement each year, Chief Marshal John W. Manning must cope with myriad mundane tasks to ensure the event unfolds successfully. Among other things, he works with the Office of the University Secretary to plan seating arrangements for the more than fourteen thousand guests and graduates, to organize the twenty-minute-long academic procession, and to see that the sound system is in place and in working order.

But that's only part of his job. Manning's purview as chief marshal, a position he has held for more than a decade, extends to the headier aspects of Commencement, as well--the trappings and practices that make an Emory Commencement unlike any other. "These things represent something important to the parents and friends who come for Commencement," says Manning, a professor of physiology.

The most imposing Commencement symbol is the University mace, an emblem of authority with medieval origins. It was given to the University by D.V.S., the Emory College senior honor society, whose members serve as white-gloved escorts for Dooley, the spirit of Emory. Dooley, a skeletal human figure, is represented in gold within a teardrop shape of oxidized silver forming the tip of the mace. According to Manning, Dooley's presence on the mace was secured by the late George P. Cuttino, professor emeritus of history and Emory's chief marshal from 1976 to 1984, who was closely associated with D.V.S. Below the tip of the mace, within an open teardrop, a gold orb is divided into eight segments representing the eight divisions of the University existing in 1965. The cross atop the sphere symbolizes Emory's ties to the United Methodist Church. The University seal is sculpted in a gold circle at the base of the staff.

The bedel, customarily the immediate past president of the Student Government Association, carries the mace in the academic procession before the University president. At other institutions, a senior faculty member typically serves that function. Emory's practice of having a student bedel was instituted by Cuttino.

Both the mace and the presidential medallion were given to Emory in 1965 to honor the fiftieth anniversary of the charter of the University. The medallion, a badge of office which the president wears on a gold cord around his neck during official functions, was presented by Emory's Gamma of Georgia chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

The University seal that appears on both objects was officially adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1950. It was adapted from an earlier version developed in 1915 by H. H. Stone, a mathematics teacher, librarian, and treasurer of Emory College. That seal marked the chartering of the University and the school's move from Oxford to Atlanta. The current seal, which was designed by the late Thomas H. English, professor of English, includes a crossed torch and trumpet representing the light and the dissemination of knowledge, respectively. Symbolizing the University's two functions, to discover and proclaim knowledge, they are encircled by the University's motto, "Cor prudentis possidebit scientiam" ("The prudent heart will possess knowledge"). This motto, drawn from Proverbs 18:15, was first incorporated into Emory symbols in 1890.

The torch and trumpet also appear on the president's gown, a distinctive robe of blue and gold, Emory's official colors. In A History of Emory University, 1836-1936, Henry M. Bullock suggests that these colors may have emerged from the earliest issues of The Phoenix, the school literary journal, which was printed with blue ink on yellow paper. The first known mention of the colors in their official capacity appeared in an October 1899 issue of The Phoenix.

Each year, Chief Marshal Manning cues the Atlanta Pipe Band to begin Commencement with the processional, "Emory and Old St. Andrews March." The work was co-written by 1985 Emory College alumnus Jerry Finegan and 1971 College and 1974 School of Law alumnus Henry D. Frantz Jr., a founding member of the Atlanta Pipe Band. Composed in 1986 to honor the University's Sesquicentennial, the processional celebrates the relationship between Emory and the University's sister institution, the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

"My love for Emory . . . was what I was trying to capture," Frantz says of his inspiration for the tune.--A.O.A.

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