Those in attendance at UW-Eau Claire's 100th commencement ceremonies May 21 will witness the start of a new tradition that's deeply rooted in the university's history.
This new tradition will involve the unveiling of the university's new ceremonial mace, created in honor of UW-Eau Claire's Centennial Celebration, which kicks off during the upcoming commencement ceremonies.
So what exactly is a mace? Fortunately, in this case, it's Merriam-Webster's second definition: a decorated pole carried by an official as a sign of authority.
Dr. Susan Harrison, professor emeritus of mathematics who retired in 2013 after serving on the UW-Eau Claire faculty for 30 years, came up with the idea of obtaining a mace for the university. Harrison served for an unprecedented 15 years as University Senate chair — a UW-Eau Claire record. During that time she presided over 70 commencement ceremonies and often thought a mace would contribute a great deal to the pageantry involved in leading the commencement platform party into Zorn Arena.
Harrison's aspiration became a realistic goal a year ago when she approached the Chippewa Valley Woodturners Guild with the idea of commissioning a handcrafted mace. As the university's Centennial Celebration coordinator, Harrison thought the timing was perfect for the object's creation.
"I had seen some work by the Chippewa Valley Woodturners Guild and was impressed," Harrison says. "I wanted to find a cost-effective way to create a mace for the centennial without sacrificing excellence. Working with CVWG was the right choice. Members who worked on the project included a former faculty member and parents of Blugolds!"
As an added connection to the university, Harrison explored the possibility of using wood for the project from historically significant trees that once stood on the UW-Eau Claire campus. Harrison discovered that wood was still available from the Council Oak tree and the original Kent State Memorial crabapple trees. In the true spirit of collaboration, wood from the Council Oak was donated to the mace project by Johannes Dahle, director emeritus of Development and University Relations.
Harrison, who received an engraved university medallion in 2013 in recognition of her 15 years as commencement marshal, donated the medallion to the mace project — an enormously generous and heartfelt gesture. She also donated funds for a portion of the mace's creation, with the UW-Eau Claire Foundation providing matching funds in honor of the Centennial Celebration.
When not in use during future university ceremonies, the mace will be displayed in the Chancellor's Office in Schofield Hall.
Harrison is thrilled with the outcome of the university mace and looks forward to sharing its beauty and meaning with commencement guests.
"When I saw the finished piece, I was overwhelmed," Harrison says. "My dream had now become a reality — and the real mace skillfully crafted by the woodturners was so much more than I had expected. The CVWG created a strong, beautiful mace that most certainly will be used well into our next 100 years."
Top photo caption: Dr. Susan Harrison, professor emeritus of mathematics, receives UW-Eau Claire's new ceremonial mace from the Chippewa Valley Woodturners Guild. Harrison, who presided over 70 commencement ceremonies as University Senate chair, led the mace project.