The investiture of Northern Michigan University President Fritz Erickson will be held 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”—and an address from Erickson. The public is invited. A reception will follow in the lobby.
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.” While investiture has symbolized the pursuit of knowledge since the Middle Ages, 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.
At Northern, the practice has also been referred to as an installation or inauguration. The first ceremony was for President Edgar Harden in 1956. According to university historian Russell Magnaghi’s A Sense of Time encyclopedia, Harden's ceremony 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. The silver-plated bronze circular medallion is about three inches in diameter and features an engraving of the university seal. The attached 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, 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.
There have been two similar events for NMU presidents since then: the installation of Judith Bailey, which centered on the theme, “A Celebration of Learning and Discovery” and included an academic symposium highlighting faculty research; and the investiture of Les Wong, which featured a week of student and faculty presentations leading up to the ceremony in Vandament Arena.