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Traditions and Symbols

An investiture is a traditional academic ceremony that recognizes the appointment of a new chief executive sometime after he or she has taken office. Our event will formally invest Chancellor Donde Plowman as UT Knoxville’s ninth chancellor and give her an opportunity to share her vision for our campus to an audience including trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, representatives of government, and the general public.

Many of the traditions seen at an investiture are also present at commencement ceremonies. The regalia and symbols we use today in formal academic processions originate in the pageantry of medieval European universities and have been adapted to reflect modern American practice and the University of Tennessee’s unique identity.

Chancellor’s Medallion

In 1994, the university introduced the chancellor’s medallion as part of the academic regalia for current and former chief executives of its flagship campus. The original medallion was redesigned in 2012 and features an image of the university’s most iconic landmark, Ayres Hall, with banners displaying the name of the present chancellor and those who have held the title in the past.


The mace is a clublike staff carried at the head of the procession in academic ceremonies. UT’s mace was first carried in 1960. Carvings and decorative designs symbolize the mission of service to the people of Tennessee. A keystone at the head signifies the university’s position as head of the state’s educational system. Flame carvings represent one of UT’s most important symbols, the torch of learning and service, and the state flower is portrayed in the enameled irises that cover the head.

The designation of macebearer is made each spring and constitutes the university’s highest faculty honor.

Academic Dress

Academic regalia indicates the highest degree earned by the wearer, the institution that conferred the degree, and the field of study in which it was earned.

Bachelor’s gowns are designed with pointed sleeves, master’s gowns have oblong pendant sleeve ends, and doctoral gowns have velvet bands in front and three velvet bars on the sleeves. The length, lining, and trim of hoods vary: The longer the hood, the higher the degree it represents. The color of the border trim corresponds to the field of study, and the lining displays the colors of the institution that conferred the degree.

Academic Banners

The faculty marshals in the academic procession carry banners that represent each college. These banners were designed and created for the university’s commencement ceremonies by Professor of Art Richard Daehnert.

Colleges are identified by colors representing the degrees awarded. All banners contain black, the color of academic robes, and incorporate contrasting hues in a geometric pattern. The banners are constructed using the same techniques as pieced quilts, relating them to the rich historic textile tradition of quilting in southern Appalachia.