UNC Pembroke has commissioned a new University Mace which celebrates the university’s heritage, mission, and its deep-rooted ties to southeastern North Carolina.
The four-foot staff was carved from wood sourced from the Lumber River basin. Depictions of the university seal, tobacco leaves, pine needle basket weave and pinecone patchwork designs surround the mace.
Perched atop the staff is a red-tailed hawk, UNCP’s mascot, plated in 24 karat gold. The hawk’s dual position - taking flight or landing - symbolizes UNC Pembroke students taking flight to soar into the future and alumni who return home to reconnect with their alma mater.
The gold-plated pinecone footer pays tribute to the longleaf pinecone—an important symbol in the region.
The pine tree, found throughout the region, was once the most populous tree on campus. The campus newspaper, the Pine Needle, takes its name from the tree.
In Lumbee culture, the pine cone patch design can be traced back to the 1800s.
The public can get its first glimpse of the mace during a dedication ceremony on November 17. The ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. in the University Center Annex.
“As UNCP celebrates 130 years of changing lives through education, we are excited to dedicate a University Mace that reflects the unique history and distinctiveness of our institution,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings.
“We are grateful for the generous benefactors who made this project possible and the contributing artists whose work masterfully conveys the UNCP story to all who encounter the Mace.”
The ceremonial mace is traditionally carried by the faculty grand marshal during convocation and commencement. Because of their role as Faculty Grand Marshal, former UNCP winners of the UNC Board of Governor’s Excellence in Teaching Award will be recognized during the ceremony.
David Ward, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, will be among the dignitaries offering remarks during the program.
“The academic mace, which has medieval origins, symbolizes the university’s governing authority,” Ward said.
The mace is a world symbol of tradition and a bond to centuries of academic ritual. It is a symbol of the legal and chartered authority of the university and its chancellor or president.
“UNCP’s new mace ties our unique history and culture to the universal culture of the academy. This mace will, likewise, provide faculty and students a real source of pride and a symbolic link to previous generations.”
The mace is a result of 14 months of collaboration among university staff and local artists, according to Carla Rokes, chair of the Art Department.
“The first eight months were devoted to conceptualization, which involved discussing ways we could communicate the university’s distinctive story within a ceremonial object,” Rokes said.
“I think it is remarkable,” Rokes said of the final product. “The fact that the mace was hand-crafted and made by a variety of artists with distinctive styles reveals the idea of innovation, which is one of the core values that UNCP promotes.
“We wanted the mace to reflect local artistic traditions like pine needle basket weaving and the pinecone patchwork design.”
The team of local artists and UNCP staff who collaborated on the design were Bernice Locklear, Lawrence Locklear, Gloria Lowery, Austin Sheppard and Ed Walker.
Lowery wove the pine needle basket elements in her home in Lumberton. Bernice Locklear carved the mace staff of wood from the Lumber River basin in his shop in the Saddletree community.
Sheppard, a multi-media sculptor and studio technician in the UNCP art department, served as project coordinator. Sheppard carved the tobacco leaves in his shop in Tar Heel in neighboring Bladen County.
A UNCP graduate, he has held residencies in Scotland, Costa Rica, New York, and the Baltics, and his work is included in the collections of the Baltic Arts Center in Kellokoski, Finland, and the city of Heredia, Costa Rica.
“It was a true collaboration,” Rokes said. “We worked thoroughly with local artists, so this was a meaningful experience. They were able to add historical stories into the mace, stories that convey the rich Lumbee culture and traditions.
“This was the purpose of the project … to tell stories of the university, its history and the local community.”
The three parts of the mace - foot, staff, and head - represent the three phases of the institution’s evolution from a normal school (1887-1941) into a college (1941-1969) and then a regional, comprehensive university (since 1969).
The mace pays homage to the university’s founders whose names are detailed on the head. In addition, seven patterned pinecones, which encapsulate the mace represent the founders - Isaac Brayboy, James E. Dial Sr., Preston Locklear, W.L. Moore, James Oxendine, John J. Oxendine and Olin Oxendine.
The mace was generously and fully funded by private donors, including descendants of all seven founders. Those contributing were allowed to choose how to honor their ancestors’ name.
When not in use, the mace will be publically displayed on campus in a specially designed wood and glass cabinet.