UAH to award estimated 1,206 degrees on May 6 at commencement featuring new ceremonial mace

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Courtesy UAH Center for Applied Optics

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) will award an estimated 1,206 degrees during commencement events at the Von Braun Center (VBC) on May 6. The pomp and circumstance honoring the spring 2024 graduates will feature the introduction of a new ceremonial mace crafted to reflect the university’s history and character. UAH is a part of The University of Alabama System.

“Commencement and this new mace are really all about our students,” says Dr. Rhonda Gaede, associate provost for undergraduate education and associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We make commencement ceremonial because we are recognizing the fact that graduating from our university is a big accomplishment.”

The mace represents the office of UAH President Charles Karr. The mace bearer immediately precedes him, following the procession of UAH administrators and faculty members prior to the awarding of degrees.

“The mace is a sign of UAH leadership and moving forward,” Gaede explains.

UAH conducted its first commencement ceremony in 1973 after becoming an autonomous university on June 16, 1969. The university retired the mace used in that first ceremony in 2023 after 50 years of celebrating UAH graduates.

UAH’s new mace is more innovative than traditional. The old mace was made of wood; the new one incorporates materials used in the space program.

“At UAH, we're all about looking forward to the future,” Gaede says. “Space is our origin story, and we wanted to pay homage to that but also look to our future trajectory.”

She describes the design as a “tech chic” expression of the multiple sides of UAH’s personality.

“The aluminum is being crafted at very high precision levels by our Center for Applied Optics. The bronze is being crafted by an artist through a completely different process. We have fins and a flame at the bottom, evoking flight. Then we have children's hands circling the globe because we have an opportunity as a university to mold people. We have different colored rings representing the various colleges. Looking from the Earth up into the stars, we have incorporated a pattern that was used in the James Webb Space Telescope, parts of which were designed and built here at UAH.”

Gaede talks about the creation of the new mace in this video.

The UAH commencement celebration includes two ceremonies: The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the College of Engineering, and the College of Nursing will recognize their graduates starting at 10 a.m. The ceremony for the College of Business, the College of Education, and the College of Science will begin at 2:30 p.m.

Estimated numbers of degrees to be presented are 934 bachelor’s degrees, 252 master’s degrees and 20 doctorates, either Ph.D. or Doctor of Nursing Practice.

More details about the UAH spring 2024 commencement – including how to watch the livestream online, directions to the VBC, event parking, a description of the VBC security policy and event decorum rules – are available on the UAH commencement website.