Heraldry | Spalding University Student Handbook


School Colors  

The Spalding University colors are Blue and Gold.  

University Seal  

The University seal has at its center a pelican, wings displayed and inverted, pecking at her breast for, according to medieval legend, drops of blood to feed her young. The pelican is the symbol of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky, who founded Spalding; it is also the symbol of the service the University and its graduates offer to humankind.  

At each side of the pelican is a variation on the Christian cross. The cross on the right is the fleur-de-lis or French cross, symbol of the city of Louisville and a reflection of the French influence on the Sisters of Charity through their co-founder, Bishop Jean Baptiste M. David. The cross on the left is the crossed crosslet emblazoned on the coat of arms of the Spalding family from which descended Catharine Spalding, co-founder of the Sisters of Charity and the person for whom Spalding University is named. The founding date of the University, 1814, is inscribed on the pelican’s nest, and the university’s name and location provide the circumference of the shield.  

At each University commencement, a Presidential Medallion depicting the University seal is worn by the President.  

Academic Regalia 

The academic regalia worn in the processional is a colorful costume reflecting the ancient origins of modern American higher education. The traditional costume derives from medieval times, when scholars of Oxford, Paris, and elsewhere robed themselves in caps, hoods, and gowns to distinguish themselves from their fellow townsmen, hence the controversy between “Town and Gown.” Most American colleges and universities follow the uniform code for costumes established in 1893 by an intercollegiate commission.  

The gown initially may have served primarily as a type of overcoat to protect the instructor from the cold in unheated and cavernous buildings. The bachelor’s and master’s gowns are usually plain and unadorned; those of doctors are marked by wide velvet bands both down the front of the gown and on the sleeves. The cap or “mortarboard” can be traced to the square cap worn by the masons of the Middle Ages. The tassel attached to the top is generally black for bachelors and masters and often golden for doctors.  

The most distinctive item of the academic costume is the hood, which passes around the neck and extends down the back. This triangular piece is edged with velvet, with the color indicating the field of learning. Some of the more common departmental and faculty colors are white for arts, gold for science, blue for education, and apricot for nursing. The colors on the part of the hood extending down the back represent the institution from which the degree was earned. Spalding University’s colors are blue and gold.  

The Mace 

The Mace Academic processions are led by a marshal bearing the ceremonial staff called a mace. In the ancient days the mace was carried for protection since town and gown relations in the medieval University centers were often far from tranquil, but over the years the mace came to symbolize the authority of the faculty over its academic programs. The current mace was created during Spalding University’s 175th anniversary. It includes wood from a beam found in the basement of St. Vincent’s Church, in Nazareth, Kentucky, which was built under Catharine Spalding’s direction. Atop the mace is a floriated cross from Spalding’s 851 Mansion.