About Clemson

Academic Regalia

Academic regalia links universities of the present with their medieval past and preserves much of the insignia, dress and ceremony that have characterized the “companies of the learned” since their inception.

As a part of the Fall 1997 investiture, new collegiate banners were designed by the Department of Publications and Promotion. Each collegiate banner displays the colors of the disciplines found in that college. In addition, the staff banner is in purple and orange, Clemson’s traditional colors. In order of their appearance today, the banners are:

Staff Regalia Clemson University South Carolina

Staff – purple and orange

CAFLS Regalia Clemson University South Carolina

Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences – maize for Agriculture, golden yellow for Life Sciences and brown for Forestry

CAAH Regalia Clemson University South Carolina

Architecture, Arts and Humanities – white for Humanities, brown for Arts, lilac for Architecture and dark blue for Philosophy

CBBS Regalia Clemson University South Carolina

Business and Behavioral Science – drab for Accounting and Business, copper for Economics, peacock blue for Public Administration and cream for Social Sciences

CES Regalia Clemson University South Carolina

Engineering and Science – orange for Engineering and golden yellow for Science

HEHD Regalia Clemson University South Carolina

Health, Education and Human Development – light blue for Education, apricot for Nursing and cream for Social Sciences

Libraries Regalia Clemson University South Carolina

Libraries – lemon yellow

The banners are unified by the horizontal bar of purple and the vertical bar of orange.

Universities in the Western World have inherited the majority of their formal ceremonies and academic regalia from two ancestors of the twelfth century: the church schools of Paris and the student universities of Bologna. Originally informal gatherings of teachers and students who came together to study, these two congregations, or corporations (and that is what the word “universitas” meant), were soon recognized as formal organizations by both church and state.

The ecclesiastically governed church schools of Paris concentrated upon theology, while the lay, democratic student universities of Bologna specialized in law. It is not surprising, therefore, that their descendants have academic regalia — robes, hoods, chains, rings and other symbols of authority of status — which originated in the insignia and dress of church and civil officials of the Middle Ages. For the same reason all diplomas were, until quite recently, issued in Latin, which was, and continues to some extent to be, the language of theology and law.

A universitas of the twelfth century was similar in administrative organization to a medieval craft guild. It had an administrative head (rector), whom we term a “president,” and his advisers (consiliarii), or “board of trustees,” all elected from the membership. In addition, the student universities of Bologna — from which the nonacademic administration of most American universities descends — employed two treasurers (massarii), a secretary (notarius), a lawyer (syndicus) and several disciplinary officers (bidelli), none of whom were members of the student body. The traditional guild insignia identifying each of these officers were also adopted, and some of the insignia survive as the symbols of nonteaching offices in today’s universities.

For example, at Clemson University the president is invested with a chain of office to show his civil, rather than his academic, status. The Clemson chain is of silver with a purple amethyst set into one shoulder link and an orange carnelian into the other, the symbolic colors of the University. The pendant of the chain is a silver and gold relief of the University seal. In the twelfth century the seal was the distinctive patent of legality granted to a guild — or to a university — by the Papacy or the Crown, and its impression was appended to all the organization’s official documents. Hence the seal of Clemson University appears on its diplomas and is displayed at its formal convocations, embroidered in gold on purple velvet in front of the speaker’s lectern.

The marshals of the colleges at Clemson are descendants of the disciplinary officers (bidelli) and carry small maces, or batons, to show their authority as officers of protocol. The mace was originally a war club, a functional implement used by officers in the twelfth century to enforce order. The Clemson marshals’ batons are of walnut and silver, and set into each is an enameled disc whose color or colors identify it with a particular academic discipline (for example, engineering, the arts or sciences). The University marshal, as chief protocol officer, carries the great mace of the University, symbol of the civil authority of the University itself, and he opens and closes every formal convocation of the institution. The Clemson great mace is of walnut and silver set with amethysts and carnelians, and it displays the seal of the University.

The chain, collegiate batons and great mace were designed and executed by Robert Ebendorf, twice winner of the Tiffany Award. The enameled plaques were crafted by Marshall C. Bell and the lapidary work by C.C. Wilson, both faculty members of Clemson University.

There were also guilds, or colleges (collegia), of teachers at Paris and Bologna. Only a college of masters (or “of doctors,” or “professors,” since the terms were used interchangeably) could grant a mastership — that is, a degree. To become a master, a student had to complete a recognized course of study, obtain the approval of the college of masters, and go through a public convocation during which he was invested with a gold ring and magisterial cap (biretta); his investiture gave him social status equivalent to that of a knight, or sometimes a bishop.

A similar process is followed at Clemson University. The candidate for graduation completes an accepted course of study, is approved by the faculty of his/her college, and attends the graduation convocation (either in body or spirit). The biretta (today’s mortar board) is worn by all graduates, though a distinction is made for those receiving doctoral degrees; the tassels of their caps are gold. The ring, once given to all masters, now may be worn by all graduates.

The three ranks of degrees that we recognize — bachelor, master and doctor — are recent. In Paris and Bologna, there was only one rank, the “mastership,” approximately equivalent to our “doctor.” Originally a “bachelor” (baccalarius) was any senior student who intended to proceed in his studies to a mastership. In time, of course, the title has come to mean simply a graduate who has completed the basic studies in his discipline. There is no degree known as “master” in older European universities today, the titles “master” and “doctor” being synonymous because both mean “teacher” in Latin.

Originally all students and faculty of universities wore the robes of the clergy because it was assumed that all students and teachers were churchmen or studying to become churchmen (clerics, or clerks). In Bologna, students wore the cappa, a long overcloak with a hood, identical to the out-of-doors dress of secular clergy. In Paris all students were required to wear the tonsure and clerical habit of clerks; outer robes were long, reaching well below the knee, closed in front, and usually black. In time the cappa with sleeves has become the distinctive dress of bachelors.

At first only the masters (the faculty) wore unique, official dress. The cappa had a border of fur (miniver) and a fur-lined hood. It, too, was initially black, but in the fourteenth century, various distinctive colors were adopted by doctors of special faculties. Doctors also wore the doctoral ring and magisterial biretta; this square cap with a tuft on the top was the distinctive badge of mastership.

Today, rank and degree among university graduates is distinguished by the descendants of these garments, which also indicate the discipline and identify the university that awarded the degree. Bachelors wear a simple black gown falling just below the knee, with long, straight sleeves, and at some institutions, a plain black hood. Masters (and professional degrees considered the equivalent of masters) wear the same length gown but with sleeves that are longer and pointed (dagged). At some institutions, masters’ gowns have bindings or knots of embroidery in the color of distinctive disciplines, and masters’ hoods have an inner band of their disciplinary color. Doctoral gowns are long, falling to the ankle, with full sleeves banded either in black or in the color marking the discipline. The facing panels of doctoral gowns may also be either black or the color of the discipline, and the large doctoral hood is lined with the identifying colors of the university awarding the degree. Some American and many European universities award doctoral gowns in the identifying color of the university. In that case, the sleeve bands and facings are either black or the discipline’s color, and the doctor may or may not wear a hood.

The Clemson University marshal wears a doctoral style gown of office in the colors of the University: gold, banded and faced with purple.

Academic regalia links universities of the present with their medieval past and preserves much of the insignia, dress and ceremony that have characterized the “companies of the learned” since their inception.

This information was compiled by Harold N. Cooledge Jr., Alumni Professor of Art and Architectural History Emeritus.