Watching the Investiture of NIUs 13th president Lisa
Freeman last week I was intrigued by the big staff she was presented
and that gold medallion she was given to wear. What is their
history, I wondered.
By contacting Lisa Miner, senior director of institutional
communications at NIU, I got the answers to all of my questions.
The University Mace, symbolic of authority, was specially
designed in 1968 for the inauguration of the late president Rhoten
Smith, and kept as a tradition at every new presidents
The walnut staff originally had four sides on the head
with quotes from historic figures on each side. President Freeman
wanted to add some new life to the tradition and had it redone
with six sides and quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., President
Ronald Reagan, First Lady Michelle Obama, Paulo Freire (the late
Brazilian educator and philosopher), Aristotle and lastly a familiar
quote from the NIU fight song.
Now about the crown jewel used in the ceremony: The Medallion.
It is six ounces of 14-karat yellow gold with a 19-karat Star
Ruby at the bottom. It was also designed for the induction of
President Smith in 1968. Presidents get to keep the medallion
for use at commencements, other formal ceremonies and special
events. But you wont find it hanging on her office wall.
It is kept in a secure undisclosed location.
At left is the six-sided head of the University Mace
with new quotes chosen by President Freeman engraved on each
The Medallion loaned to each president to wear at special ceremonies.
(NIU provided photos)
One of the Investiture speakers, a friend of Dr. Freeman, suggested
becoming president is like going into battle and the mace might
come in handy. It reminded me of a quote from US President Teddy
Roosevelt who once said "speak softly and carry a big stick,
you will go far." But I dont really expect to see
the new president carrying that stately staff around campus.
Now getting back to those quotes, which a few readers may
want to know about; they include:
(1) Public education is our greatest pathway to opportunity
in America. So we need to invest in and strengthen our public
universities today, and for generations to come. Michelle
(2) Education is not the means of showing people how to
get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which
enough people, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth
having. Ronald Reagan
(3) Educating the mind without educating the heart
is no education at all. Aristotle
(4) The function of education is to teach one to think
intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character
that is the goal of true education. Martin
Luther King Jr.
(5) Education does not change the world. Education changes
the people who will change the world. Paulo Freire
(6) Forward, Together Forward. NIU Fight Song
Since I am on the subject of NIU, heres a little
quiz. Other than my friend Sally Stevens, can anyone name the
13 presidents without using Google or Wikipedia? If its
not worth the effort, here are their last names: Cook, Brown
(J.Stanley), Brown (Joseph), Adams, Holmes, Smith, Nelson, Monat,
Wingfield, La Tourette, Peters and Baker. Of course you already
know Number 13.