The Wayne State University Mace

Wayne State University Mace

The Wayne State University Mace, a ceremonial scepter used at certain official university occasions, will be present on Friday, April 4, when M. Roy Wilson is inaugurated as the 12th president of Wayne State University. The mace also appears at Commencement ceremonies and at each year's New Student Convocation. The Wayne State University Mace has been in use for thirty years; it was built for the university by Phillip Fike.

Wayne has employed an academic mace at its Commencements for over sixty years, and the current mace is the university's third. The first Wayne University Mace was never intended to last as long as it did. In the early 1950s the university paid Wilfred Becker, an instructor in the Art Department, $50 to build an academic mace. Becker assumed that the mace would only be used once, but in fact it remained in use for the next thirty years. A second mace was created for the 1968 centennial celebration of Wayne State University. This mace, made of wood painted green and gold, is a three-dimensional representation of the university's Centennial seal. The Centennial mace is now preserved in the Walter P. Reuther Library, home of the Wayne State University Archives.

In 1981 Wilfred Becker, now a full professor, was asked to create a new mace to take the place of his earlier work. Becker declined, and passed the commission on to his fellow professor Phillip Fike. Fike, a metalsmith and founding member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths, designed and created a 51-inch staff of ebony wood, with bronze and steel elements. The head of the mace features five symbolic eternal flames surrounding the official seal of Wayne State University, visible only from above; the sphere at the foot of the mace represents a globe of the Earth; and the bronze bands around the column signify the colleges of the university. The mace took Fike three years to build. Although he completed it in time for it to be used at the May 1984 Commencement ceremonies, Fike continued to improve on his design and add elements in subsequent years.

The Wayne State University Mace, designed and created by Phillip Fike (1926-1997), is in the Wayne State University Art Collection. Its construction and purchase were made possible by a gift to the university from Sarah and Melvin Maxwell Smith.

Casey Westerman is the Wayne State University Archivist.