NMU Presidential Investitures: Present and Past
The investiture of a university president is one of the most enduring traditions in academia. It is defined as a “formal ceremony of conferring the authority and symbols of high office.” The investiture of NMU's 15th president, Fritz Erickson, is scheduled at 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 9, in 1100 Jamrich Hall. It will include an academic procession with faculty and administrators in colorful academic regalia, remarks from university and community members, the presentation of the presidential medallion—also known as the “chain of office” (pictured)—and an address from Erickson. The campus community and general public are invited. A reception will follow in the lobby.
Investiture has symbolized the pursuit of knowledge since the Middle Ages, but modern universities view it as an opportunity to celebrate as a community and welcome a new era under new leadership while preserving academic tradition. The ceremony typically is held during or at the conclusion of the president’s first year in office. Whether labeled an inauguration, installation or investiture, the practice began at Northern with President Edgar Harden in 1956.
According to university historian Russell Magnaghi’s A Sense of Time encyclopedia, Northern presidents prior to that time merely took office and did not participate in a public event. Harden’s ceremony was impressive in scope. It was witnessed by delegates of 80 U.S. colleges and universities, as well as the campus community and business, industrial, labor and civic leaders.
The ceremony for John X. Jamrich, by comparison, was a “simplified and streamlined” affair for individuals/institutions connected with Michigan. It was held in the former Hedgcock Fieldhouse and televised. The Jamrich inauguration marked the debut of the presidential medallion, or chain of office.It is a silver-plated bronze circular disk, about three inches in diameter. The inner portion of the circle contains an engraving of the university seal. Two laurel branches at the bottom encircle the medallion. A heavy silver chain connects silver-plated bars listing past NMU presidents and their years in office.
Two other forms of regalia were used for the first time at Jamrich’s ceremony: the mace (right), developed from the war-like medieval mace to represent authority and carried by the longest-serving faculty member, considered the grand marshall of the academic procession; and a green academic robe and sash specially created to be worn by that senior faculty member.
The next such event did not occur until the installation of President Judith Bailey in the Superior Dome. Centered on the theme, “A Celebration of Learning and Discovery,” it included an academic symposium highlighting faculty research. President Les Wong’s investiture featured a week of student and faculty presentations leading up to the ceremony in Vandament Arena. The ceremony was followed by a combined reception/Homecoming block party and NMU football game.