Traditions and Symbols

Traditions and Symbols

The Mace

Originally used as a weapon, the mace has become an ornamental symbol of authority borne by a public official at ceremonies. At Rowan, the University Mace is carried by the grand marshal in the Commencement procession. The mold for the mace was made by the University art department. A gift of the Alumni Association, the mace was cast of solid silver by William C. Martin Jewelers in Philadelphia.

The Medallion

The Presidential Medallion was struck with a die of the University seal. It symbolizes the office of the presidency. Ornamental plates interspersed on the chain depict griffin-like owls as a symbol of the pedagogical heritage of the University. Other plates are engraved with the names and years of service of the previous presidents, Jerohn J. Savitz, Edgar F. Bunce, Thomas E. Robinson, Mark M. Chamberlain, Herman D. James and Donald J. Farish. The President wears the medallion during official ceremonies such as Commencement, Convocation and the Presidential Inauguration.

Academic regalia

The pageantry of Commencement is rich with symbolism and tradition. Candidates for graduation must wear a cap and gown to participate in the ceremony and other symbolic elements are part of the procession and program.

The wearing of academic gowns is a tradition that dates back to the early 14th century. The gowns were first used to distinguish scholars from regular citizens. The added advantage of the garments was to keep the medieval academics warm in the unheated buildings they used. Their practical purposes soon gave way to embellishments and the gowns became a means of identifying certain academic achievements.


Commencement not only includes academic protocol and traditional costume, but also symbolic elements of the procession and ceremony. Among the most visible of these are the gonfalons which represent each of the Colleges in the University. Acting as the College Marshal, the senior member of the faculty in each College bears the gonfalon in Commencement and Convocation processions.

All Rowan University gonfalons have in common several elements that symbolize the unified mission of the institution’s six colleges. Among these common elements are the school colors, brown and gold, derived from the Brown-eyed Susans used to decorate the podium at the first Commencement in 1923. Also used in all the gonfalons is the oak swag, inspired by the stately oaks that shade campus and symbolize long life, strength and endurance. Within the shield, the owls suggest the pedagogical heritage of the university. According to heraldic code, their posture—shown in profile with inverted, addorsed wings and with both feet on the ground—suggests a collegial relationship, positive demeanor, readiness and intent to rise with purpose. The checkerboard pattern on some of the shields pays homage to the Rowan family coat of arms. Following the pattern of the University seal engraving, beneath each college shield is a motto in Latin, the classic international language of scholarship and thought.

Rohrer College of Business

image of banner as describedThe art depicted for the College of Business is derived from Greek and Roman mythology: the helmet of Hermes or Mercury, the god of trade, profit and commerce. In both mythological traditions, the god was associated with commerce in general, invention, travel and boundaries, and weights and measures, all appropriate for discussion of the international scope of business in its various specialties as studied at Rowan’s Rohrer College of Business. The College motto is, “Honor, wisdom, industry and integrity.”

College of Communication & Creative Arts

image of banner as describedTrumpets and pennants on the College of Communication & Creative Arts gonfalon symbolize medieval methods of communication and identification. Trumpet blasts were a means by which encampments and kingdoms exchanged messages over long distances. The pennants, used in pageantry and on a variety of structures, artistically expressed the identities and qualities of the bearers. As crucial aspects of our humanity, communication and creativity are foundations of varied academic areas, and are enacted in the aural, verbal, and visual channels illustrated on the pennants. The College motto is, “Inspiring communication and creativity.”

College of Education

image of banner as describedA traditional symbol of enlightenment, the lamp’s rendering on the gonfalon is a classical form which existed with little change into the 19th Century. Its practical uses for shedding light or preserving a flame to ignite others makes the ancient device appropriate as a contemporary symbol of education’s best purposes. The use of three lamps on the gonfalon suggests the three levels studied at Rowan: elementary, secondary and higher education. The repetition of the art also signifies the pedagogical fundamentals inherent in each course of study that link them together and build upon one another in the College of Education. The motto of the College of Education is, “The learning community”

Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering

image of banner as describedIcons of engineering wonder and ingenuity, the two pyramids on the gonfalon are meant to symbolize the original elements and principles employed by the ancients. The sun suggests energy as well as the continual enlightenment and opportunity that come as a result of exploration, problem solving and discovery through application of engineering disciplines. The College of Engineering is the legacy of Henry M. Rowan, the benefactor of the University and specifically, its mission in engineering education. Inspired by Mr. Rowan’s life and the name of his autobiography, the motto of the College speaks of his passion for ingenuity and purpose and kindling that passion in others. Translated, the motto is, “Building the fire within.”

College of Performing Arts

image of banner as describedThe Performing Arts gonfalon contains a composite illustration inspired by principles applicable to all performing arts and those who create and interpret artistic expression. At the center of the art is a Celtic symbol suggesting creative replenishment and new life. Outside the world triad is the lotus flower, a symbol of creation in Greek and eastern cultures. Blended together, these symbolize the best intent of performing artists expressing a vision or giving voice to a thought. The art also employs the Fibonacci sequence that produces a balanced and pleasing effect. Translated, the College of Performing Arts motto is, “O Muse, create, illuminate, inspire!”

College of Humanities & Social Sciences

image of banner as describedThe compass has been used as a navigational tool since the eleventh century. By choosing the compass as its icon, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences acknowledges that its disciplines provide students with the knowledge, attitudes, ethics and global outlook necessary for navigating successfully through life and exploring the paths presented by dynamic career and life circumstances. Building a solid foundation within the liberal arts allows students to seek individualized answers to an essential question: "Where am I going?" The College motto is "Leading the way to wisdom."

School of Earth & Environment

The elements that distinguish the School of Earth & Environment crest begin with the solid brown field at the top of the shield that descends into the shape of a spade, a basic tool of discovery in earth sciences. The striped field symbolizes the earth’s strata, each layer offering insight on our planet’s past, present and future. The globe illustration is situated on the crest to show the eastern U.S., where the first world’s first nearly complete skeleton was found, as well as Argentina and Egypt, the sites of major dinosaur discoveries. The school’s motto is drawn from Shakespeare, commentary applicable to all of life and this planet’s place in the universe: “What’s past is prologue.”

College of Science & Mathematics

image of banner as describedThe disciplines in the College of Science & Math stem from the Age of Enlightenment, the era in which modern science, universal education and the questioning of traditional forms of authority emerged. In 1784, Immanuel Kant wrote the classic response to the the question, “What is the Enlightenment?” He said, “The Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity." The motto of the Enlightenment according to Kant was “Sapere aude!” which means Dare to be wise!" or “Dare to know!” It is the charge for College of Science & Math students and faculty to use reason and intellect for self-liberation through pursuit of knowledge and truth.

Cooper Medical School

cooper_crest.jpgDrawing on Greek mythology, the Medical School gonfalon depicts Chiron, the esteemed centaur known for his great intellect and skill in medicine. Chiron taught many Greek gods and heroes, including Asclepius, the god of medicine mentioned in the ancient Hippocratic oath sworn by physicians. A symbol of enlightenment and life, his fiery torch suggests Chiron’s self-sacrifice to allow mankind the use of fire. The illustration alludes to the science and art of medical education: a legacy of great skill, tender care and professional expertise conveyed from teacher to student to benefit humanity. The Medical School motto is, “The next generation of medical education.”

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

image of banner as describedInspired by the idea of unraveling the mysteries of life sciences, the art on the gonfalon for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences depicts the study of the entire genome as illustrated by the chromosome and the DNA double helix. The book reminds the observer of the goal described in the School’s mission statement: to develop scientists who will contribute new knowledge in the biomedical disciplines through creative research and scholarship. As they unravel complexities in the biomedical sciences through experimentation and analysis, scholars and researchers illustrate the method and results of their work as described in the GSBS motto, “Inquisitio et Inventio ad Methodorum Novarum Petendum,” literally, “research and discovery for the purpose of innovation.”

School of Osteopathic Medicine

image of banner as describedThe School of Osteopathic Medicine gonfalon contains images that represent the school’s mission to provide excellence in medical education, research and health care for New Jersey and the nation. The Rod of Asclepius, a staff encircled by a snake, evokes the traditional symbol of the Greek god of medicine revered for his power to heal. The DNA helix acknowledges the molecular basis of all being as examined by SOM students, researchers and physicians. Combined, the two symbols indicate the school’s commitment to serve and lead as professionals inspired and informed by SOM’s rich research heritage in social, behavioral, clinical and basic sciences. The SOM motto is “Teaching the next generation, treating every generation.”