The Story Behind The Inauguration Clothing

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Ian Scullion 
Contributing Writer

During his inauguration ceremonies this week, University of San Francisco President the Rev. Paul Fitzgerald will wear his academic robes from the University of Paris-Sorbonne where he earned his doctorate. The Parisian tailors who made his robes embroidered “Mr. Fitzgerald” in silver inside the collar.

Unlike the English-style robes typically worn in the United States, instead of a hood, the French robe features the epitoge,  a decorative element on the left shoulder which consists of a long band in the front, and a shorter, broad triangle in the back, each with three fur stripes signifying a doctor (rabbit fur  in this instance, although one can upgrade to ermine).

The epitoge and the fringed sash are daffodil yellow, the French color for degrees in arts, humanities, philosophy and literature. A pleated white cloth called a rabat takes the place of a necktie. The toque (hat) is generally carried and not worn, and is yellow with black velvet trim. The black robe has 25 buttons.

Professors who have served 20 years may be eligible to accessorize the robes with a sword. “It’s medieval,” Fitzgerald said laughing.

Clockwise from the top left: the large center medallion features the University seal, smaller medallion representing the School of Law, smaller medallion representing the School of Nursing, smaller medallion representing the the College of Liberal Arts     Photo Credit: Alex Leanse/ FOGHORN
Clockwise from the top left: the large center medallion features the University seal, smaller medallion representing the School of Law, smaller medallion representing the School of Nursing, smaller medallion representing the the College of Liberal Arts Photo Credit: Alex Leanse/ FOGHORN

The gold-plated Chain of Office will be ceremoniously given to President Fitzgerald at his inauguration.  It features a large center medallion bearing the University seal, and six smaller medallions representing USF’s constituents: College of Science, School of Education, School of Law, College of Liberal Arts, College of Business, and the School of Nursing.  The last man to wear the chain, the Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J., told President Fitzgerald to get hooks sewn into his robe so the chain hangs evenly down the front and back.

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