Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland was founded in 1782 as the first college chartered in Maryland and the tenth in the United States.
The Presidential Chain was a gift of Mr. Roger Kelly and Mr. Thomas S. Nichols, members of the Board on Visitors and Governors, in 1971. Composed of a medallion and links of sterling silver, the Chain was executed by the late Gabriel Swart, a noted silver engraver of Washington, D.C.
The medallion features a likeness of Dr. William Smith, first President of the College, encircled by star-like designs with centers of inlaid black onyx stone representing the Black-eyed Susan, the Maryland state flower. The reverse side of the medallion bears the College seal.
Supporting the medallion are alternating square and circular links, one on each side. Thirteen of these eighteen links are inscribed with the names of the Presidents of Washington College and their dates of office, from Colin Ferguson, second President, to Sheila C. Bair, twenty-eighth President.
The College Mace
Originally a medieval weapon, the mace has become a symbol of high office and is traditionally carried by the marshal who precedes the President in academic processions.
The Washington College mace is heavily worked with silver and contains six matched garnets mounted in a circle around the silver head. Historical insignia are engraved on the head and in three silver rings on the ebony staff.
On the head are the seal of Kent County, the seal of the College, a silhouette of George Washington, and Washington’s coat of arms. In a circle on the head, under the garnets is inscribed “Washington College, Founded in Chestertown, Kent County, Maryland, 1782.”
The upper ring on the staff bears engravings of the Book of Learning and an astrolabe. The second ring depicts the terrestrial globe and Washington’s shield, and the bottom one bears a flaming torch on one side, matched on the other by the crest and motto of Dr. William Smith, founder of the College. The donor’s name, Henry Powell Hopkins, appears on the bottom.
The history of academic dress reaches back into the early days of the oldest universities. A statute of 1321 requires that all “Doctors, Licentiates, and Bachelors” of the University of Coimbra (Portugal) wear gowns.
Gowns have identifying characteristics. Sleeves are pointed on the bachelor’s degree gown, oblong on the master’s and bell-shaped on the doctor’s. Full-length velvet panels also appear on the doctor’s gown; these may be in black or, if the wearer prefers, the color associated with the department of learning.
Hoods denote scholarly achievement. The lining is dyed in the official colors of the college or university where its wearer earned the degree. The color of the velvet represents the department of learning; Arts, Letters, and Humanities - white; Economics - copper; Education - light blue; Music - pink; Philosophy - dark blue; Physical Education - sage green; Science - gold-yellow; Social Science - citron; Theology - red.