Three times a year, the Lutcher Theater has a colorful event full of pomp and circumstance and regalia that has roots back to the Medieval times.
Lamar State College-Orange has graduation ceremonies for students, who wear traditional black robes and mortarboard hat. But the faculty comes out in a variety of robes with colors signifying an educational code.
Dr. Thomas Johnson, the president of LSC-O, wears a light blue robe signifying his doctorate degree in education. He has four stripes on his full sleeves.
Other colors include purple for law, engineering is orange, medicine is green, philosophy is dark blue.
He explained that when a person earns a master’s degree, they have two stripes. A doctorate degree rates three stripes. Johnson, as chief executive officer of the college, has the fourth stripe.
The fourth stripe isn’t the only thing signifying his position. He also wears a necklace that could cause a 1990s rap star to be jealous. It is called the “Chain of Office.”
The back of the medallion of the chain has an engraved list of all the former presidents of the college, along with Johnson’s.
Johnson said the robes and regalia date back to the Medieval times when schools were in churches or castle-like buildings, like the fictional Hogwarts. The buildings were cold and the robes provided warmth.
Today, the robes for a college faculty have a message. Different degrees have their own designated robe color. Johnson said the sleeves on a robe get wider with a master’s degree, and a doctorate degree has even wider sleeves. Plus, there’s the stripes on the sleeves.
The faculty will also wear “hoods” over the robes that drape in front and back. Johnson said the hoods have colors of the universities where they earned their degrees. For instance, orange and white could indicate the University of Texas or Sam Houston State University.
When the faculty marches during the graduation ceremony, the president of the faculty senate will carry the mace, a ceremonial staff. Eric Owens currently holds that position.
The mace for LSC-O is unique. Faculty member Donny Thomas carved it out of a cypress branch taken from a tree on campus. The cypress tree, native to Orange, has become the symbol of the college.
Friday night’s graduation ceremony also marked the college’s 50th Anniversary and featured an honored speaker. Carl Parker of Port Arthur represented Orange County in the Texas Senate for decades and worked to establish LSC-O.
Johnson said he met Parker at a ceremony at the Museum of the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame. There, Parker said he had served in the senate for 33 years and had 400 bills passed. He was most proud of the bills that created Lamar State College-Orange and Lamar State College-Port Arthur.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-