Staffs that call groups to order are as old as civilization itself. Today's ceremonial maces descend particularly from medieval armor-piercing clubs topped by bludgeoning balls. These fierce weapons swiftly acquired symbolic meaning.
By the fourteenth century, a mace, carried at the front of formal processions, required bystanders to note the authority and integrity of the event. In the sixteenth century this formidable weapon lost its battle utility but took a symbolic turn: the spiked head evolved into a decorative orb. The European tradition by which universities presented maces on solemn occasions to signify their independence and protective power was adopted by their successors worldwide. The mace-bearer, a distinguished member of the institution-at SMU, the president of the Faculty Senate-leads formal ceremonies carrying this visible reminder of the university's history and status.
The 22 pound mace currently in use at SMU is linked to the inauguration of President Willis Tate (1954-1972) and is now known as the Tate Mace. The 57 inch staff is topped by 10 ½ inch orb that represents not only the university's worldly authority but also echoes its distinctive neoclassical style. The orb is impressed with the seal of the university and encircled with SMU's motto, Veritas Liberabit Vos (The Truth Shall Set You Free). Surmounting the Orb is a cross vividly painted in SMU red, a reminder of SMU's religious heritage.
The designer and manufacturer of the Tate Mace pictured on the upper left are unknown. The mace had become heavily worn from 50 years of use and handling, and in 2008 it was totally refurbished under the direction of Project Manager Fred Banes by SMU's Office of Planning, Design and Construction. The small mace pictured on the lower left is believed to be the University's original mace. The designer and manufacturer of the mace are unknown.
History based on citation prepared by Alvina Bonnie Wheeler,
Ph.D., Associate Professor of English