Santa Clara University

Office of the President

Ceremonial attire

The attire of inauguration participants closely resembles the colorful array of caps, gowns, hoods, and collars on display at commencement.


The colorful gowns worn by faculty, administrators, and representatives of academic institutions have historic roots in the medieval past, when students and faculty wore the robes of the clergy. Academic attire began to appear on United States campuses in the late 1890s, and since that time, its use has become customary for solemn university functions.

Fr. Paul Locatelli giving his inaugural speech on Nov. 11, 1988.

Style of gowns: At SCU, as at other colleges, each degree has its own style of gown. That of the bachelor is a yoked, closed-front garment, with long, pointed sleeves. That of the master is cut to be worn with open or closed front; its sleeves are long and are either open or closed, but slit just above the elbow to allow the forearm to protrude. The gown of the doctor is also worn open or closed, and has full, bell-shaped sleeves. Only the doctor's gown is adorned with trimming-velvet panels down the front and three velvet bars on each sleeve. While black velvet is the trimming for all doctor's gowns, other colors of velvet trimming identify the major areas of study.

purple trim: law
white trim: arts and humanities
yellow: sciences
orange: engineering
brown: business


Historically, the hood seems to have been worn over the head and was attached to the gown. When the skullcap was introduced, the hood was retained but detached, and worn much as it is today. Each degree (bachelor, master, doctor) has the right to a hood. It varies in length and, for the doctor's degree, also in pattern.

Hood binding (collar): Features different widths for bachelor, master, or doctor, and its color indicates the area of study within the university granting the degree.

dark blue: philosophy
light blue: education
white: arts and letters
golden yellow: sciences
orange: engineering
purple: law
brown: business
scarlet: theology


The mortarboard cap is the generally accepted style in U.S. colleges and universities. Some European and Latin American institutions retain distinctive forms of academic headdress, such as the tam-o'-shanter cap or a cloth biretta.

President. The president wears a gown and hood in the colors of his alma mater from which he was granted his highest degree. Most colleges and universities feature black gowns with hoods lined in their school colors. In Fr. Engh’s case, he will wear a black gown with a hood lined in red and gold, the colors of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, from which he received his doctorate in 1987. 

Faculty. Faculty wear the cap and gown of their alma maters as well. Those faculty who graduated from Santa Clara will wear black gowns with red and white hoods. 

Trustees and Regents. The university's trustees and regents wear red gowns with white  and black trimming and stripe


Symbols of Office


The ceremonial mace is one of the most ornate and historic symbols of inauguration, used to identify the continuing authority of the president. Its origins can be traced to medieval times, when clergy (who were forbidden under biblical injunction from using swords) carried club-like staffs into battle.

Symbols of the presidency, the mace and medal - the latter presented by Justice Edward Panelli, chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Starting centuries ago, ornate versions of mace were created and bestowed upon kings' bodyguards to protect their leaders. Over time, they became purely ceremonial and were embraced by many levels of government leaders, especially in Europe, for use on important or solemn occasions. The U.S. House of Representatives has employed a mace for more than 150 years. There, the eagle-topped mace is moved up or down on a pedestal to the right of the Speaker of the House to indicate whether the House is in session or operating as a committee.

Universities have used ceremonial mace on high occasions for centuries. At university inaugurations, including Santa Clara's, the mace is traditionally carried at the front of the inaugural procession by a member of faculty.

Santa Clara University's mace was carved from basswood in 1964 by Alex Zeller of San Juan Bautista, during the presidency of Fr. Patrick Donohoe. It has a torch-like appearance, meant to evoke the image of the eternal flame of truth. The emblem of the open book of learning and the blooming flower of youth adorn the three sides of the crown. The growth and strength of the university are symbolized in the leafy, fern-like carving of the handle.


Chain and Medallion

The other highly ornate ceremonial accoutrement central to the inauguration is the chain, a necklace of metal with an elaborate medallion depicting the University seal, which features the words “Santa Clara University” and the year of its founding, 1851. The inner circle of the seal holds a sky of 13 stars, symbolic of the 13 original American colonies, above the American eagle perched on a shield containing the Jesuit seal of the cross and three broad-headed nails.

The use of chains and medallions as ceremonial garb originated in medieval times, when they were known as livery collars, ornate and durable symbols of the authority of office.



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