The unveiling of the new University Mace at UNC Pembroke evoked feelings of pride for many who attended a dedication ceremony on Friday.
“It was very moving and humbling,” said Anthony Dial, who attended with his wife, Rhonda, and extended family. “It was very emotional.”
Hundreds of people turned out for the unveiling inside the University Center Annex. The event was momentous as more than two dozen attendees were descendants of the university’s founding fathers.
The University Mace was carried by Dr. Cherry Maynor Beasley, the 2017 UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award winner, and flanked by the Lumbee Ambassadors and the Lumbee Tribe culture team.
The ceremony featured a traditional blessing and smudging – an American Indian ritual.
Atop the four-foot mace is a 13-inch red-tailed hawk, UNCP’s mascot. The hawk’s dual positon – 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 hawk is plated in 24 karat gold. The gold-plated pinecone footer pays tribute to the longleaf pine tree.
The staff, which was crafted of wood sourced from the Lumber River basin, is adorned with the university seal, tobacco leaves, pine needle basket weave and pinecone patchwork designs.
The academic mace symbolizes the university’s governing authority. It is carried by the faculty grand marshal during convocation and commencement.
Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings said each detail of the mace tells the story of the 130-year-old institution. It also serves as a symbolic link to previous generations.
“Today, our university takes a proud step forward, into a wonderful vision and future,” Cummings said.
“Our institution is positioned at the intersection of two worlds rooted in tradition and symbolism — the world of higher education and the American Indian community.
“Both worlds exalt sacred objects used to sustain their traditions. In higher education, perhaps no object is as symbolic as the University Mace.”
Lawrence Locklear, coordinator of the Southeast American Indian Studies Program, designed the pinecone patchwork.
“I love the way it turned out,” Locklear said. “The symbolism is obvious, representing that connection between the university, the tribal community and, particularly, the southeastern part of the state.
“It is very evident when you look at the symbols and the materials and the folks who helped fabricate it … it’s symbolic of that relationship and that collaboration that has been going on for the past 130 years between the university and the local community.”
The mace pays homage to the university’s founders whose names are detailed on the head.
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.
“When you look at the mace, you get a sense of who we are as a university, as well as the university’s connection to the region and, more importantly, to the people for which it was founded,” Lawrence Locklear added.
Cummings said UNCP would not exist without the founders and the new University Mace would not have been possible but for the generous support of the founders’ descendants.
The mace was generously and fully funded by private donors, including descendants of all seven founders.
The mace was a result of 14 months of collaboration between UNCP staff and local artisans including Bernice Locklear, Lawrence Locklear, Gloria Lowery, Austin Sheppard and Ed Walker.
“This project reaffirms and is a reminder about how important and treasured UNCP is to the community as a whole,” said Sheppard, a multi-media sculptor and studio technician in the UNCP art department.
“It was really nice to see the artists recognized in the way that they were. That was my goal as project coordinator – to make sure the artists felt respected and appreciated.”