Virginia Wesleyan transitions from college to university May 23 - August 1. Please be patient as this transition occurs.

Regalia & Ceremonies



The colorful banners displayed during academic processions are gonfalons. The first in line reflects the University's commitment to liberal arts education, with the vertical ribbons representing the disciplines constituting our academic program. The University is identified by the seal and by the colors blue and silver.

The other three gonfalons represent the University's academic divisions: Humanities, Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Social Sciences. They were designed and hand stitched by Ms. Judy Coltrane, secretary to the President, and Mrs. Judy Tinsley, secretary to the dean of the University.

College Humanities
College Gonfalon
College Gonfalon
Natural Sciences & Mathematics Social Sciences
College Gonfalon

The College mace

VWU Mace top

A mace, once designed for use as a tool of medieval warfare, has served in recent centuries as a symbol of authority and vitality by legislative bodies and institutions of higher education. In the latter context it becomes a ceremonial staff, bearing engraved images and words which represent distinguishing characteristics of the institution.

The Virginia Wesleyan University mace was created by goldsmith Suzannah Wagner of Ashland, Va., in consultation with a college committee coordinated by President William T. Greer, Jr. and the College marshal, Dr. William M. Jones. The cherry wood for the mace was harvested in southeastern Virginia in the 1930s and the base of the shaft contains grains of earth preserved from the original campus groundbreaking ceremony on July 18, 1965. Latin inscriptions on crystal panels evoke mind, body, spirit and community. Additional engravings on crystal and silver reflect agricultural, maritime and other regional symbols; the United Methodist cross and flame; and scenes of the campus.

VWU Mace

Presidential medallion


A symbol of the Office of the President of Virginia Wesleyan University, the four-inch sterling silver and blue enamel medallion utilizes the main design element of the official college seal, surrounded by four posts representing the campus landmark, the Frank E. Brown Campanile, or bell tower, and the four academic villages in the campus master plan. It hangs on a cloth ribbon in the college colors, blue and silver. The presidential medallion was first worn by William T. Greer, Jr., on occasion of his installation as third president of the College in April 1993.

Ceremonial dress

The three academic degrees generally recognized are the bachelor's, master's and doctorate. The name of each degree seems to have been determined by medieval custom. The bachelor's degree, the baccalaureate, takes its name from the practice of referring to novices in trade guilds, knightly orders and universities as "bachelors." The master's degree was equivalent to a license to teach, and sometimes was followed by the express words licentia docendi. The doctorate degree derived from the habit of addressing scholars of great learning by the title "doctor." Today, of course, all three degrees are generally earned by following a prescribed course of academic study.

However, honorary degrees are granted for meritorious service and for distinction in public or private endeavor. In the medieval university, students and teachers wore gowns indicating their status and scholastic achievement. In 1895, an intercollegiate commission drafted a uniform code governing the use of academic caps, gowns and hoods in the United States. The vast majority of colleges and universities in the nation, including Virginia Wesleyan University, adhere to those guidelines.

Those holding the bachelor's degree wear a black gown distinguished by long pointed sleeves hanging to the knees. The master's gown, worn open, features even longer sleeves which are closed at the bottom. There are slits about midway for the arms. The doctorate gown has full-length lapels of velvet and bell-shaped sleeves with three horizontal velvet bars.
A hood may be worn with the gown and is made of the same material. Each hood is lined in silk with the colors of the institution which granted the degree. In the case of Virginia Wesleyan, for example, the colors are blue and white. The bachelor's hood is three feet long, with a two-inch strip of velvet. The master's hood is three and one-half feet long, faced with a three-inch velvet strip. The doctor's hood is four feet long, faced with a five-inch strip of velvet. The color of the velvet strip on the hood indicates the field of study in which the college degree was earned or granted, for example:

  • Arts: White
  • Social Welfare: Citron
  • Fine Arts: Brown
  • Business: Drab
  • Science: Yellow
  • Theology: Scarlet
  • Education: Light Blue
  • Philosophy: Blue
  • Music: Pink
  • Public Health: Salmon
  • Library Science: Lemon Yellow

The appropriate cap for all degrees is the familiar "mortar board." A tassel, hanging to the left of the face, is also appropriate for all degrees. Holders of the doctoral degree may wear a soft velvet cap of the color indicating their field of study and a tassel of gold thread.


Fall Honor Convocation

Fall Honor Convocation is held annually and focuses on the importance of honor and integrity at Virginia Wesleyan University. As a liberal arts university, Virginia Wesleyan is committed to values of citizenship and social responsibility fundamental to a community of scholars. People who join this academic community agree to maintain academic honesty. With this in mind, all Virginia Wesleyan students are required to abide by an honor code. This event is especially important to first-year students as they sign a card acknowledging their commitment to the Honor Code. For more information see, Creed and Honor Code.

Spring Honors Convocation

The Spring Honors Convocation is held annually and recognizes those students who have excelled during the academic year. Academic departments take this opportunity to recognize outstanding students within their programs. In addition, a number of awards are presented from outside organizations, including the American Association of University Women and the Northside Norfolk Rotary.


In keeping with commencement exercises of American colleges and universities, a baccalaurete service is usually celebrated the Friday evening prior to commencement. With the intent of being inclusive and ecumenical, yet within the spirit of a traditional worship service, the University baccalaureate service is usually held inside a large church sanctuary. The service usually features a traditional liturgy, special music by either a choir or soloist, the singing of hymns and a sermon or an address by a guest preacher or the chaplain of the University. Students participate in the service, sharing in the annual prayer of thanksgiving.

As a tradition, graduating Virginia Wesleyan students, share in the tradition of "passing the light," whereby an outgoing member of the graduating class, "passes the light," to a representative of next years graduating class, while sharing words of wisdom and hope for the next graduating class.


Virginia Wesleyan's annual commencement ceremony is held each May in honor of the conferring of degrees on students who have met the University's graduation requirements. The ceremony features a keynote speaker as well as an address by the University president. Faculty awards and honorary degrees are also presented during the ceremony. Recipients are usually well-known for their dedication to and support of the University and community.

December Graduate Reception

The December Graduate Reception is an annual reception held in recognition of potential December graduates. The special reception for potential graduates and their families is held in the midst of the fall examination period and prior to all final grades being submitted. Therefore, December graduates are actually certified later in December and early January with diplomas being ready for pick up by mid-January.

Faculty march

Each faculty member's placement on the list is determined by rank and length of service to Virginia Wesleyan. Division Chairs are listed first, followed by full professors by year in which they were promoted to that rank. If multiple full professors are appointed in the same year, then those individuals are ordered alphabetically. Professors are followed by Associate Professors, Assistant Professors and Instructors, respectively.