WKU mace dedicated. It was designed by John Warren Oakes and crafted by Terry Leeper and Frank Pittman. The mace contains several elements that are symbolic of WKU's history.
"The mace was used as a sort of battle club in the field," Terry Leeper of the Industrial Technology Department said. "Armies carried it into war with them. It was considered a representation of power and authority."
Since recent times, though, the mace has turned into a symbol of honor used at ceremonial activities of universities or governmental bodies like the U.S. Congress. Ironically, throughout Western's more than 90-year history, the institution has never had a mace.
"A lot of students and faculty aren't aware of what maces are because Western's never had one," Leeper said.
The conception of Western's mace has a long history. The idea originated with Freida Eggleton, who wanted something to lead the procession first at inauguration, then at commencement. In January, Dr. Barbara Burch contacted all the department heads and asked them if they had anyone in their areas who would be interested in making the mace.
"I told Dr. Burch that I could make it, but would need some help in designing it," Leeper said. "So I called Leo Fernandez in the Art Department and he suggested John Oakes to do the design."
A meeting was held between Leeper, Oakes, Burch and Eggleton. From there, Oakes let his pencil and fingers do the drawing.
"I listened to what Dr. Burch had in mind and just sketched it out on paper," Oakes said. "It was something I was happy to do."
From Oakes' sketch, Leeper took to his computer and made a scale drawing of the mace. Next would come the actual construction.
On top of the mace sits a wooden lantern top modeled after the top of Cherry Hall. Below the lantern is a silver medallion with Western's seal embedded in the wood.
Next comes the bands of history. Beginning with the year 1906, there are five strips of wood, each with a year carved into them - 1906, 1922, 1930, 1948, and 1966. These are the major milestones of Western's history as an institution from the time of the Western Kentucky State Normal School in 1906 to 1966 when it became Western Kentucky University.
"It was only appropriate for a lasting symbol of the school to contain the memorable and historic years in Western's development as a school," Leeper said.
After the bands is a representation of the colleges of study at Western. Leeper said each college will be represented by jewels of different colors. There will be six colors for the six colleges - Education, Potter, Ogden, Business, Graduate, and the Community College.
At the bottom of the mace sits a wooden globe. It symbolizes both Western's contributions to the world and the University's alumni living around the world. In addition, the entire mace is made out of cherry wood.
"The cherry wood is representative of both Henry Hardin Cherry, Western's first president, as well as Cherry Hall," Leeper said. "Cherry is also a native wood to Kentucky, so that helps."
The mace's formal debut will be during the Inaugural ceremonies for President Gary Ransdell at 8 p.m. on May 7 with the Musical Extravaganza and Mace Dedication in Van Meter Auditorium. Leeper said it's significance will go far beyond that one event.
"This will not only add to the pomp and circumstance of graduation for students and faculty, but will give them something else to remember about Western."
After being used to lead the inaugural procession, the mace will be used in official University functions, including graduation, and will be carried by the senior most faculty member.
Leeper said that he's happy to have been an integral part of the process.
"I'm not getting paid for this, but that's not why I'm doing it," he said. "I'm happy to have helped contribute to another tradition of the school that will go on long after I'm gone."
Leeper adds that he hopes students will appreciate what the mace will mean to them too.
"When they look at it during graduation or even after they return to the campus, they'll recall the fond memories of their best teachers, their worst teachers and life in general here on campus," he said. "That's the real reason it's there - for the students."
[Siria, Stephanie. WKU Prepares for Dedication of Mace for Ransdell Inauguration, pr, 4/27/1998]
See more images of the mace.
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