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Figure of Speech

By Gerry Turcotte

06/29/2016

Gerry TurcotteThe strongest stem

Its strongest stem became a ruler’s sceptre. — Ezekiel 19:11

The mace has been a staple of university ceremonies for over 600 years, with Oxford University first using one in the 16th century. Alternately a weapon of war and of diplomacy, the mace has been used in both parliaments and universities as the symbol to start proceedings, to ward off evil, or to call people to attention. In the university context it is also representative of the institution’s authority to grant degrees, and as such, the mace-bearer always leads the procession of professors and students into the graduation hall.

One of the most exciting times for any university is convocation, when we have an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our student community. This year St. Mary’s University had the pleasure of awarding a record number of degrees, but also of presenting our new mace. The Rose Family Memorial Mace was crafted by the prestigious British firm of Thomas Fattorini, by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, manufacturer of insignias and awards. The mace was designed and donated by one of our own professors, Dr. Linda Henderson, to celebrate the university’s 30th year as an educational institution.

The mace honours the achievements and spirit of the Rose family, including patriarch Harold Henry Rose, and Dr. Henderson’s late sister Janet Rose, a pioneer in cartography and in the geomatics industry, whose company produced an extraordinary 3D imaging map of our entire campus. It is for this reason that the mace includes a small compass rose on its finial. As our campus minister, Nancy Quan pointed out at the dedication ceremony, a compass rose is “a directional keeper.” It is a “harbinger of where we are going, and of the direction we want to take. A compass lets us know when we have gotten off track or when we have missed the mark. By orienting us it helps us to look forward with purpose, but it wisely reminds us to keep looking over our shoulders to keep track of where we have come from. Where we come from does indeed matter. It shapes our vision.”

The mace also features the St. Mary’s star in several places, as well as our Coat of Arms. The design combines a hardwood staff with a hallmarked sterling silver head, a lucite stone in which floats the St. Mary’s star, and it bears our university crest on two sides enameled in four colours and finished in 24 karat gold. Needless to say the rose, as the symbol of Mary our namesake, is important for us as a university. It also has a particular resonance to the Rose family after whom the mace is named.

With our Rose Family Memorial Mace, along with our Coat of Arms and our new university flag, granted recently by the Chief Herald of Canada, St. Mary’s is preparing to take on the next 30 years with renewed focus and purpose.

Turcotte is president of St. Mary’s University in Calgary.