This installation ceremony is the moment that Ashish Vaidya formally assumes his role as Northern Kentucky University's president.
Board of Regents Chair Lee Scheben will place the presidential medallion around Ashish Vaidya's neck in a symbolic gesture, and Vaidya will swear the official oath.
Inaugurations of American university presidents descend from coronation ceremonies of early European history. A chieftain, lord or king assumed sovereignty after a public gathering. Typically, the leader received a distinctive robe, a headdress or a spear; citizens might lift the monarch on a shield. Religious overtones to the service resulted when Christianity spread across Europe. Countries anointed their leaders with oil, in the same way that Samuel conferred kingly status upon Saul and David; thus, in the Middle Ages, monarchs were set apart from the rest of the people and were viewed as having a contract both with God and with the citizenry. Vamba, the Visigoth king of Toledo, anointed in 672, may have been the first western European leader to receive the unction of oil.
In 973, Archbishop Dustan contrived an ordo, or ritual, for the coronation of King Edgar at Bath. The oath, the anointing, the investiture, the enthronement and the homage remain the official program for today’s British coronations. After 1689, the ceremony was assimilated into the communion service. In Britain, the oath before the assembled people ensures that the sovereign will govern according to the laws and will uphold the Church of England. The archbishop anoints the hands, the breast and the crown of the head of the sovereign. The investiture with the royal robes, the insignia and the crown of St. Edward follows, with the archbishop, bishops and peers lifting the monarch onto the throne.
In 1789, George Washington, imitating the British formal investiture, faced a crowd gathered beneath the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City; placed his hand on a Bible; swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States (to which he added “so help me God”); and delivered a speech calling for unity. Since that April 30 ceremony, presidents of the United States have been inducted into official duty by means of an inauguration.
Decorum characterizes the long history of academic inaugurations, although the elaborate ceremony of European coronations has taken on a Puritan simplicity in America. Since its origin, Harvard University has formally inaugurated its presidents; for example, on July 7, 1725, Commencement Day, President Benjamin Wadsworth passed in procession from the college to the meetinghouse. The Bachelors of Art walked first, two in a rank, followed by the Masters. (Incidentally, no one wore a cap). The trustees comprising the Corporation of Harvard College came behind Mr. Wadsworth; behind the trustees were Tutors, two in a rank; the colony’s Honorable Lieutenant-Governor and Council followed. Mr. Wadsworth received the keys, seal and records of the college, replied in English to his investiture and gave from the pulpit an oration in Latin.
The installation of a university president signifies the scholarly community’s reverence for the past and excitement for the future. The inauguration symbolizes the public approval of a responsive and responsible leader to carry on the pursuit of academic excellence. Traditionally, American institutions of higher learning have contributed to the superior standard of living by providing knowledge, conducting research, inventing new methods and entertaining theories as well as audiences. Appropriately, the inauguration of a university president commemorates achievement and celebrates future accomplishment.
The medallion bears the seal of Northern Kentucky University and symbolizes the authority and responsibility of the office of the president. It will be worn at all official functions of the university and will be passed on to each president.
Cast in brilliant bronze, the medallion is three inches in diameter. On the front appears “Northern Kentucky University 1968,” the date of the school’s charter. The medallion hangs on a gold chain, studded with 12 gold discs engraved with the seal of the university.
The origin of the medallion, a large medal, dates to ancient Rome when they were created to preserve the portrait of an eminent person or the memory of an illustrious action or event. Generally produced in limited numbers, they were made principally in bronze, although a few were in silver and in gold. Most were about one and a half inches in diameter. After Hadrian’s rule (117-138), they flourished until the fall of the Roman Empire.
Medallic art revived during the Renaissance with Vittore Pisano (1380-1456), the painter of Verona. He made medallions characterized by their vividness of sculpturesque portraiture and their unusual breadth and simplicity of treatment. In the Middle Ages, Albrecht Durer of Nuremberg, Germany, produced important works. In the 16th century, Jacques Primavera and Germain Pilon issued significant medals from France.
In England, medals began with Henry VIII (rule:1509-1547). Coronation medals were made for Edward VI and succeeding rulers. In the 18th century, J. A. Dassier issued a series of medals of English sovereigns from the time of William I.
The NKU presidential medallion shares this rich tradition of commemorative art.
The mace, which traces its roots to medieval weaponry, has become a symbol of scholarship and integrity for universities since the eleventh century. Today, the university’s Grand Marshal carries the mace to indicate the solemnity of the occasion and the confirmation of the academic process.
Northern Kentucky University’s mace is rich in symbolism. The spiral base, made of walnutstained mahogany, suggests growth, evolution and higher achievement. The gold-leaf flame, inspired by NKU’s official seal, the lamp of learning, symbolizes eternal light and learning. The gold and white braided cords flowing from the base of the flame represent purity as well as NKU’s school colors.
The mace was presented as a gift to the university from the NKU Foundation, Inc. It was designed by Kari Messner (‘91) and was sculpted by local artist Jack True.
HISTORY OF ACADEMIC COSTUME
The history of academic dress reaches far back into the early days of the oldest universities. A statute of 1321 required that all “Doctors, Licentiates, and Bachelors” of the University of Coimbra wear gowns. In England, in the second half of the fourteenth century, the statutes of certain colleges forbade “excess in apparel” and prescribed the wearing of a long gown. It is still unknown whether academic dress finds its sources chiefly in ecclesiastical or in civilian dress. Gowns may have been counted necessary for warmth in the unheated buildings frequented by medieval scholars. Hoods seem to have served to cover the tonsured head until they were superseded by skull caps. These were themselves displaced by a headdress somewhat like those now recognized as “academic.” Both Cambridge and Oxford have made academic dress a matter of university control to the extent of minor details and have repeatedly issued revised regulations governing it. In seventeenth-century Oxford it was prescribed that any tailor who departed from the authorized design “by a nail’s breadth” in the making of any article of collegiate costume was to be punished by the vice-chancellor of the university.
European institutions continue to show a great diversity in their specifications of academic dress, while American colleges and universities have adopted, through the Intercollegiate Bureau of Academic Costume and the American Council of Education, a standard code of dress for academic ceremony. Created in 1902, the Intercollegiate Bureau of Academic Costume serves as a source of information and guidance in such matters, and, through occasional review by the American Council of Education, these standards have been adopted and followed by hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States.
Today, all candidates for degrees and those who hold degrees, including college officials, faculty and visiting dignitaries, are attired in traditional cap and gown. The formal color for most caps and gowns is black. However, holders of different degrees wear distinctive tassels on their caps (called mortarboards). Hoods of various hues drape down the back of the gowns representing the bearer’s field of study. The colors of the platform flags represent the academic disciplines in which the university offers majors.
Those wearing academic costumes wear caps in the academic processions and throughout the ceremony. Men may remove their caps during prayer or at other specified times.
Members of the university governing body are entitled to wear doctoral gowns. The Regents regalia is a gold gown with three black chevrons and trim and an eight-sided tam with gold tassel. This attire is distinctive of the Board of Regents of Northern Kentucky University.
The procession begins with many special guests and dignitaries. The Grand Marshal precedes representatives from the NKU faculty, staff, students and delegates of sister colleges and universities. The last group to enter the hall is the platform party, whose members include the Board of Regents, former presidents of NKU, the university deans, members of the President’s Cabinet, representative from the Council on Postsecondary Education, president of the NKU Foundation, president of the Faculty Senate, president of Staff Congress, president of the Alumni Board of Directors, ceremony guests and speakers and President Ashish K. Vaidya.