A Look Behind the Symbols of the Inauguration

Why a key? What’s a mace? More than ceremonial accessories, the Objects of Office are links to Tufts’ storied history

During Tufts University’s inauguration ceremony, the incoming president is presented with the charter, the key to Ballou Hall, and the presidential medallion. These symbolic items, along with the academic mace and the president’s regalia, make up the Objects of Office. All five meaningful pieces will make an appearance as Sunil Kumar is installed at the 14th president on October 6. They are reminders not only of Tufts’ remarkable history of educating students for nearly 170 years, but of the important role that each new president plays in guiding the institution forward.

a corner of the hand-written charter of Tufts College

The Charter

Tufts’ charter was issued in 1852, granted by the Great and General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The original act of incorporation, under the name the “Trustees of Tufts College,” noted that the college should promote “virtue and piety and learning in such of the languages and liberal and useful arts as shall be recommended.”

two keys pinned to a wooden board

The Key to Ballou Hall

The key to Ballou Hall is presented formally to each new president. Ballou Hall was named after Tufts’ first president, Hosea Ballou II. The hall was the first building on the Tufts campus and its construction began in 1853. Tufts College opened in 1854 with one building, four professors, and seven students. In those early days, Ballou Hall was home to all college activities, including classrooms, student living quarters, the library, a museum, and a chapel.

the presidential medallion

The Medallion

The medallion is an integral part of the president’s regalia and symbolizes the Office of the President. Tufts’ official seal, with the motto Pax et Lux (peace and light), is engraved on the medallion. The seal was adopted by the Trustees in 1857, the same year as Tufts’ first commencement. The links on the medallion’s chain are inscribed with the names of Tufts’ past presidents.

a brass and wood mace

The Mace

Ceremonial maces date back to the Middle Ages when they were carried as a symbol of royal authority. The academic mace is a symbol of the authority invested in the president by the university’s governing body. Tufts’ mace, constructed in 1938 of rosewood and polished brass, is adorned with a medallion engraved with the official seal of the university. It is carried before the president in academic processions during formal ceremonies such as commencements and inaugurations. The mace was presented to Tufts as a gift of the Tufts Alumni Council.

a robe and mortarboard

The Regalia

The Tufts presidential robe bears the school colors and is adorned with four velvet chevrons on each sleeve, denoting the Office of the President. In 1876, Tufts undergraduates settled on today’s brown and blue colors, but it was not until 1960 that they were officially adopted by the Trustees. Academic regalia evolved from attire worn by European scholars in the 12th and 13th centuries. Long gowns were worn at that time to keep people warm in unheated buildings.

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