Historical Commencement Information

The Significance of the Academic Mace

Observing the centuries-old convocation procedures, each Marshal in the Savannah State University Academic Procession carries an official mace, which is indicative of the power, dignity, and magisterium vested in the University. The mace is a club-shaped staff that originated in the Middle Ages as a weapon. Eventually, it gained a ceremonial character and is presently employed most often by legislative forums and academic enterprises.

The official mace and stand of Savannah State University were designed and constructed from mahogany by Dr. Ernest S. Brown, Associate Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering Technology.

Savannah State University Motto

The University's motto is "Lux et Veritas" (Light and Truth).

Academic Regalia

Modern academic dress has evolved from a type of apparel prescribed by English Medieval Universities to distinguish their schools from the lay person in dress at a time when everybody wore robes or gowns. When American colleges and universities desired to adopt some suitable system of academic apparel a half century ago, it seemed best to agree on some definite system which all might follow. Accordingly, this attire has consisted of the cap, the gown, and the hood, the latter two now differing according to the degree the wearer has received.

The modern cap, in academic dress, has the same design for all degrees: black and square-shaped with a tassel hanging from the center. However, the color of the tassel usually differentiates the field of study for which the degree was granted, the gold tassel being worn by doctors or by presidents of colleges and universities. However, the black tassel is correct for all degrees.

The gown, unlike the cap, in academic dress, differs appreciably in design according to the degree conferred on the wearer. The gown for the bachelor's degree has pointed sleeves. It is designed to be worn closed. The gown for the master's degree, worn open or closed, has an oblong sleeve, open at the wrist, like the others. The sleeve base hangs down in the traditional manner. The rear part of its oblong shape is square cut, and the front part has an arc cut away. The doctor's gown, worn open or closed, has long sleeves faced with velvet; three bars of velvet are midway the sleeves. The trimmings of the doctor's gown may be black or the color associated with the field of study.

The hood, while not an article of dress, is however, the most distinctive feature of the academic attire. It is a black, cowl-shaped badge or adornment with an oval opening and is worn down the back. It enables one the quickly determine not only the degree held by the wearer but also the college or university from which he or she is graduated. The colors lining the hood and the size and the shape of the hood make the distinction. The bachelor's and master's hoods are three feet and three and a half feet in length, respectively; the doctor's hood is four feet in length and is made with a wide panel. Hoods may be worn for only those degrees actually held by the wearers.

Members of the governing body of a college or university, and they only, whatever their degrees may be, are entitled to wear doctor's gowns (with black velvet), but their hoods may be only those of degrees actually held by the wearers or those especially prescribed for them by the institution.

In some colleges and universities, it is customary for the president, chancellor, or chief officer to wear a costume similar to that worn by the head of a foreign university.

The chief marshal may wear a specifically designed costume approved by the institution.

For all academic purposes, including trimmings of doctor's gowns, edging of hoods, and tassels of caps, the color associated with different subjects as prescribed by the revised American Intercollegiate Code is as follows:

Arts, Letters, Humanities ... White

Oratory (Speech) ... Silver Gray

Business ... Drab

Philosophy ... Dark Blue

Economics ... Copper

Physical Education ... Sage Green

Education ... Light Blue

Public Administration ... Peacock Blue

Law ... Purple

Science ... Golden Yellow

Library Science ... Lemon

Social Work ... Citron

Music ... Pink

Theology ... Scarlet

At Savannah State University, the lining of the hood has an orange chevron on a blue background to represent school colors. A faculty member wears the color of his or her alma mater.

Savannah State University Hymn

Original words and music by J. Randolph Fisher and Hillary Hatchett

Lyrical revision by Ms. La Gina M. Frazier

Our Alma Mater, S.S.U.

Refrain: Where Savannah meets the sea,

Thine honor, pride, and eminence,

Where grassy plains and palms abound,

We raise in prayerful reverence.

Where the Flow'rs are gems of loveliness,

There S.S.U. is found.

Guide us still from day to day,

We adore each beauteous scene and hall,

Be Thou mindful lest we lose our way;

Our all we pledge to Thee!

Help us know that life, short or long,

In our hearts we'll build a shrine for You

Means unceasing work for weak and strong.

We hail Thee, S.S.U.!

Commencement History since 1895

The 1895 - 2009 Commencement History of Savannah State University as documented from its archives and the book Richard R. Wright, Sr., at GSIC, 1891 - 1921. This history is provided courtesy of Dr. Charles Elmore.

About Savannah State University

Savannah State University is the oldest public historically black college or university in the state of Georgia and the oldest institution of higher learning in the city of Savannah. The school was established in 1890 as a result of the Second Morrill Land Grant Act, which mandated that southern and border states develop land-grant colleges for black students. Later that year, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation creating the Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth, which served as Georgia's 1890 land-grant institution until 1947. A preliminary session of the Georgia State Industrial College was held in the Baxter Street School Building in Athens, Ga., before moving to Savannah in October 1891. Richard R. Wright, Sr., was appointed the first president of the institution in 1891, which opened with five faculty members and eight students.

The college awarded its first baccalaureate degree in 1898 to Richard R. Wright, Jr., the son of the founding president and ninth president of Wilberforce University. Cyrus G. Wiley of the class of 1902 was the first alumnus to become college president in 1921, the same year the first female students were admitted as residents on campus. In 1928, the college became a four-year, degree-granting institution, ending its high school and normal school programs. Upon the creation of the University System of Georgia (USG) in 1932, the college became one of the first members of the system and its name was changed to Georgia State College. Its name changed again in 1950 to Savannah State College, and the institution received initial accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 1955.

The USG Board of Regents elevated the college to university status in 1996 and renamed the institution Savannah State University. Savannah State established the city's first Master of Science degree program in elementary education in 1968, and became the first institution in Savannah to receive accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) from 1971-81. The teacher education program was transferred from SSU in 1979 as part of a federally mandated USG desegregation plan. In 2013, the School of Teacher Education received official notice from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission that it has met all standards to move forth with preparation of middle and high school teachers in the areas of biology, mathematics and technology education.

Savannah State is the first institution of higher education in Georgia to offer a bachelor's degree program in homeland security and emergency management, and is one of few to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in marine sciences ­- an innovative program launched in 1979. Beginning in fall 2013, the groundbreaking program in global logistics and international business program was added. It will support continued growth of the port of Savannah and of the coastal region.

As a recognized member of the global community, SSU has facilitated the education of many of its students in countries across the world, including the establishment of thriving exchange and study-abroad programs.

Doubling its enrollment from 2001-2011, Savannah State is now home to an increasingly diverse student body of more than 4,900. Under the leadership of the 13th President Cheryl Davenport Dozier since May 2011, the university has embarked upon a new era - building upon the rich legacy of academic excellence and community engagement that has defined it for the last 125 years.