A touch of gold at graduation: The Yale Mace

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Former deputy provost Charles Long carried the 24-pound mace in the Commencement procession for 20 years. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

While there may be grandparents and great-grandparents in the crowd on Commencement Day, the oldest participant in the ceremony remains the same every year: the Yale University Mace.

This 24-pound, 47-inch-long club was first introduced as a symbol of the authority of the president and the Yale Corporation in 1904, and has held a place of honor at University functions ever since.

Each year, the chief marshal is tasked with carrying the gilded-silver mace in the graduation procession from Woodbridge Hall, where it rests in a vault when not performing ceremonial duties, to the dais on Old Campus. For 20 years (1990-2010), that task fell to Charles (“Chip”) Long, deputy provost; after Long’s retirement last year, the task was taken over by Jon Butler, former dean of the Graduate School.

Commencement is not the only time mace appears, as it is carried in other Yale occasions of pomp and circumstance.

The Mace features four winged figures — representing art, science, law, and theology — which face outward in each direction, surrounding a dark “Yale blue” globe in the center. The shaft of the mace is engraved with the names of Yale’s presidents.

Amidst the sea of black robes this graduation, the prized golden rod will be hard to miss.

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