This fall, Olivet College’s Opening Convocation included many special presentations and awards, including a dedication in honor of the institution’s 175th anniversary. The college is now represented by its own ceremonial mace, a unique symbol of OC’s rich history.
Ceremonial maces have been used in higher education ceremonies as far back as the 15th century to represent the institution’s leadership and authority. The Olivet College ceremonial mace was commissioned by President Steven M. Corey, Ph.D., in recognition of the 175th commemoration of the college’s founding. Designed and co-created by Professor Gary Wertheimer and alumnus Eric Witzke ’71, the mace is used in formal celebrations to represent Olivet College’s enduring mission: the education of all people for the greater good.
“I’m pleased to accept this ceremonial mace as a powerful and visible symbol of all it represents for the leadership and authority that Olivet College has provided for its 175-year history, and all that it will provide in the many years ahead,” said President Corey. “It will also act as a prominent and enduring symbol of the college’s mission, history and values.”
In addition, a very special alumnus was honored as the college’s inaugural mace bearer – Charles Blackman ’46. Dr. Blackman, trustee emeritus and honorary chair of the 175th Commemoration Committee, also served as a flag bearer during the college’s 100th anniversary celebration as a student. “It is very special to be a part of honoring Olivet’s significant history. I was deeply honored to be asked to serve as inaugural mace bearer,” said Dr. Blackman. “It is more than a bit unbelievable to have been a part of celebrations 75 years apart, but I am very proud that the college is still true to our founders’ purpose.”
The Olivet College Mace
Since its establishment in 1844 as the first college in Michigan to admit women and persons of color, Olivet College has been a defender of the rights for all people to access and benefit from a quality higher education. With a handle composed of five different woods representing the diversity of humankind, the ceremonial mace is a strong symbol of the college’s continued dedication to an academic culture that celebrates both the wealth of human diversity and the bond of human similarity.
The handle is topped with an octagonal block of white oak, crafted from the original doors of the college’s historic Burrage Library, and inset with the college’s official seal. At the apex is a bronze flame symbolizing the power of higher education to dispel the darkness and enlighten our students with, as our founders wrote, “The means of intellectual, moral and spiritual improvement, and to teach them the divine art and science of doing good to others.” In addition, the end cap crafted in bronze is inscribed with “1844-2019 · 175 Years” and the artisans’ names.
A Work of Art
“It has been a great honor to play a role in creating the ceremonial mace,” said Gary Wertheimer, professor of art. “I am grateful to President Corey for having the idea to do something like this. When he originally approached me, I conducted a significant amount of research to learn exactly the purpose of a mace and how it is used. From there, I knew we wanted to handcraft this piece rather than order a mace from a commercial manufacturer to really represent the college and be part of the institution.”
Professor Wertheimer and Witzke worked to conceptualize several ideas through drawings and constructed several prototypes before settling on the final design. The woodworking was led by Witzke, a resident of Olivet, an alumnus of the institution and an experienced woodworker. He used special techniques to bind the different woods comprising the handle together and shaped the handle with a lathe. Professor Wertheimer used his own artistic talent to develop a bronze flame atop the mace that embodied the true light and motion of a real flame.
The mace will be used at all college events in which regalia is worn and the college president is present. Learn more about Olivet College’s 175th anniversary, or plan your visit to campus to join the celebration. Contact 800.456.7189 or email@example.com for more information.