History of Commencement
Prior to 1980, the University of Texas at El Paso (and its predecessors, the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy and Texas Western College) borrowed regalia for ceremonial occasions. In 1980, Drama Department faculty member C.L. Etheridge suggested that the time had come for UTEP to have its own unique regalia. President Haskell Monroe established the University Heritage Commission to raise funds for the creation of official regalia, to include a mace, chains of office for the President and the Vice President for Academic Affairs, a UTEP banner and seal, and a banner and seal for each of the colleges.
A University seal, depicting El Paso’s sun, mountains and river, had been created for Texas Western College in 1949 by renowned local artist José Cisneros. This seal was incorporated into the official heraldic layout for the University banner designed by Art Department faculty member Sally Bishop Segal, who also designed seals for the colleges of Liberal Arts, Science, Nursing and Allied Health (now the College of Health Sciences), and the Graduate School. Albert Ronke, Drama Department faculty member, designed the seals for the colleges of Business Administration, Education, and Engineering. All eight seal designs in their heraldic layout were then crafted into fabric by Esther “Terri” Cornell. In 2001, the seals for Engineering, Business and Health Sciences were updated by Sally Segal to reflect new programs offered by those colleges.
UTEP alumnus James Love created the Chain of Office for the President, consisting of eight seals reproduced on two-inch diameter enameled disks; the Chain of Office for the Vice President for Academic Affairs; and the University Mace.
C.L. Etheridge developed the ceremonial rituals used in University commencement since 1981.
A symbol of authority and dignity of office, the mace has been associated with civil and academic ceremonies from at least the 14th century. The Mace is designed to convey honor, optimism, hope, accomplishment, learning and scholarship, and its association with special events denotes tradition, solemnity and a commitment to excellence. At The University of Texas at El Paso, the Mace plays a prominent role in all Commencement and Convocation ceremonies.
The University Mace is a timeless and inspiring symbol that combines forms selected from the distinctive Bhutanese architecture of the UTEP campus; the natural landscape of the Chihuahuan Desert; and the multicultural heritage of the U.S.–Mexico border region. The Mace captures the University’s rich history as well as its highly promising future, from its beginnings as Texas’ first mining school in 1914 to today’s competitive research university serving a 21st century student demographic.
The University Mace took place as a cherished legacy, an extraordinarily beautiful reminder of UTEP’s first 100 years of commitment to providing higher education opportunities to residents of this U.S.–Mexico border region.
Among the many traditions associated with Commencement, the presentation of the ceremonial University and College banners symbolizes the accomplishments of the graduates whom we honor on this occasion and the University’s commitment to their success. Each banner bears a unique seal placed on a 4 x 6-foot heraldic field, or saltire, and each incorporates symbols and colors that define it:
Colors: Orange, White and Blue
Open Book – the learning process;
The Sun, Mountains and River – the city of El Paso;
Star – The Lone Star of Texas;
Laurel Branch – high academic achievement;
Oak Branch—solidity and permanence
Colors: Brown - Business and Accounting
Copper - Economics
Symbols: Globe – international commerce;
Graph – economic statistics;
Computer Disk and Mouse – computer applications;
e.com – information communication
Color: Light Blue
Symbols: Lamp – lamp of learning;
Book – learning and literacy;
Sigma – Greek symbol for “all-encompassing”;
Book, Ruler and Compass – the tools of learning
Color: Dark Orange
Symbols: Castle Structure – civil engineering;
Gear – mechanical engineering; Bolt of Lightning – electrical engineering;
Hammer and Assaying Scale – metallurgical and mining engineering;
Human Form – industrial engineering;
Computer Card and Binary Numbers – computer science
Colors: Apricot – Nursing
Green - Healing Arts
Symbols: Dark Red Field – blood of life;
White Shield and Red Cross – humanitarian aid;
Human Figure – physical care and therapy;
Beaker, Needle and Test Tube – laboratory research and application
Color: White - Humanities, Arts and Letters
Symbols: Alpha/Omega – first and last letters of Greek alphabet symbolizing the scope of studies in Liberal Arts;
Torch – knowledge; Open Book – the learning process and literacy Color Stripes denote disciplines within liberal arts: Brown for Fine Arts, Crimson for Journalism, Pink for Music, Dark Blue for Philosophy, Violet for Psychology, Scarlet for Religion, Citron for Social Work and Silver Gray for Speech and Drama
Symbols: Maltese Cross - exceptional service to humanity;
Lamp of Knowledge - tribute to Florence Nightingale;
Eternal Flame - lifelong quest for knowledge;
Laurel Leaves - honor; “Corpus Sanare” - healing the body;
Burnt Orange Ring - School of Nursing becomes part of The University of Texas System in 1972;
Columbia Blue and Navy Blue - past and present shades of blue designated as official colors;
Stars - the State of Texas with Miner orange.
Color: Golden Yellow
Symbols: Clouds/Sky – the atmosphere surrounding the earth;
Globe – earth and geography;
Methane Atom – chemistry, biology and physics;
Five Mathematical Symbols—basic and higher math concepts;
Tree – the history of science;
The Mountains, Earth and Strata – geology
Colors: University colors of Orange, White and Blue and other colors from academic areas offering graduate study
Symbols: Rainbow – the spectrum of disciplines forming the Graduate School;
Star – the Lone Star of Texas and the skyward direction of the flames;
Pan of Flames – group knowledge;
Laurel Branches – high academic achievement
GOWNS, CAPS AND HOODS
The tradition of the gown, cap and hood worn at UTEP events dates back to universities in the Middle Ages, when such garments had very practical applications. The gown and hood kept the chill away as students and teachers labored in halls of learning that were often damp and drafty.
Originally, the mortar board, or flat square cap, was a hat which, when removed, provided its wearer with a flat writing surface. Writing instruments and paper were kept in the long sleeves of the gown.
Until modern times, caps and gowns were made of black fabric to illustrate the gravity of learning. Although today’s gowns, caps and tassels are available in a variety of colors, the symbolism of color remains. For example, students who graduate from UTEP wear a tassel whose color represents the college from which they receive their degrees.
The hood drapes over the shoulders and is worn by those who have earned a master’s or doctoral degree. It consists of a black shell, lined in satin, and bears the color of the institution that conferred the degree. The hoods worn by UTEP graduates have an orange lining crossed with a white chevron. The velvet on the border bears the color of the field of learning in which the degree was earned.
Mining Minds is the iconic piece of public art installed in 2010 to enhance the entrace of The University of Texas at El Paso campus. Michael Clapper, the sculptor who created Mining Minds, honored President Diana Natalicio by selecting and converting into binary code on the pick the final lines from her Fall 2008 Convocation remarks: "Believe in yourself and in your dreams. Believe in UTEP and its aspirations. Share the dream!"
At night, light illuminates the steel structure, while LED's emanate from the perforated ones and zeros at each end of the pick. On special occasions, including historic dates, annual milestones and to celebrate special accomplishments, the pick illuminates the campus' entrance.