Key symbolic elements of the ceremony are the school colors, the commencement regalia, the mace, and the hooding of new graduates, each of which is described below.
The School Colors
The colors of Houston College of Law are crimson and gold.
The Commencement Regalia
In the city of medieval times, clothing not unlike that worn by the participants in the
commencement ceremony was
common. The modern academic costume has evolved from the dress of the medieval guilds and the early
religious orders. Today, anyone with a college or university degree may wear the black academic
The hood, a sash-like garment that is placed around the neck of a graduate by a member of the
faculty or a guest during the ceremony, indicates the doctoral-level degree. Placement of the hood
by a member of the faculty or an alumni guest gives recognition of the honoree’s academic
accomplishment and welcomes the graduate to the fraternity of professionals. At Houston College of Law College
of Law, the lining of the hood has a crimson chevron on a gold background to represent the school
colors. A Houston College of Law faculty member who holds a degree from another college or
university wears the colors of that school. The velvet edging on a hood is the color that
represents the subject in which the degree was earned by the wearer. Purple represents law.
The doctoral costume also has velvet trim on the gown, including crossbars on the sleeve. The trim
may be black or may match the color of the hood edging. The tassel on the cap is worn on the left
side to indicate an advanced
At graduation, the symbol of authority carried by the senior faculty member leading the Houston College of Law academic parade is the mace. The mace itself is an ornamental staff that takes its name from a medieval battle club used as a weapon. Use of the mace in academia dates back to the mid-1400s A.D. Today at Houston College of Law, its use at commencement indicates to all that the school is determined to protect the integrity of the law, the institution itself, and education.
In Houston College of Law’s earlier days, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston on several occasions lent the college its mace, a handsome polished wooden shaft about four feet long entwined with a bronze serpent representing health. Topped with an eagle, it featured the great seal of the medical school, discreetly covered with a gold disc when used by Houston College of Law.
After borrowing a mace for three years, the law school began to search for a company to produce a custom-made mace. No such company was located, so Houston College of Law decided to produce its own mace. First, a five-foot oaken shaft was obtained from an architectural antique outlet. Then a bronze eagle of proper dignity and proportion was procured and affixed to the top of the staff, mounted on a brass cap fashioned from a World War I artillery shell casing. The ornament at the base was made from a Navy 40-millimeter shell casing of World War II vintage, and the final ornamentation was the college’s bronze seal, attached to the upper part of the shaft.
Symbolically, the mace represents Houston College of Law’s mission. The seal shows the scales of justice in balance, and contains the college’s motto: Justitia et Veritas Praevaleant (Let Justice and Truth Prevail). The shell casings are from two of the nation’s most difficult struggles to defend the rule of law and justice. The eagle is reminiscent of the symbol of the United States and also reflects the magnificence of the eagle statue that currently graces the college’s front entrance. The carrying of the mace, like the ringing of the Liberty Bell after seniors’ last exams, is a cherished Houston College of Law tradition.
The hooding of new graduates by faculty or guest hooders is one of commencement’s cherished
moments. In this ceremony, a striking, sash-like garment of crimson, gold, and purple (the school colors, plus the color symbolizing the law) is placed around the neck of each participating graduate by his or her hooder. The garment is then arranged so that it flows down the back of the graduate, revealing the colors of the school and the law.