In Advance of the Upcoming Investiture Ceremony, Here's a Look at the Symbols of the University

Leadership will be formally conferred on President Granberg on Nov. 3.

October 23, 2023

GW University chain

The GW chain of office is worn by the president of the university as a symbol of authority. (Photos by William Atkins/GW Today)

In academic tradition, investiture is a formal ceremony celebrating and officially installing a new leader in office. It looks back at the institution’s history and at the same time ahead to its future. At an investiture ceremony on Friday, Nov. 3, the George Washington University will formally invest its new president, Ellen Granberg, with the power and symbols of her office.

The ceremony is a formal recognition of the power and influence being granted to a leader. The ceremony at GW will convey institutional confidence in Granberg’s ability to lead the university in the early years of its third century.

Investiture differs from inauguration in being a single, formal event as opposed to a cluster of events taking place over a number of days. Apart from their role in the educational setting, ceremonies of investiture have also recognized officials in religious and political settings.

Symbols of the university

Among the symbols of GW, a new university mace has been commissioned specially for Granberg’s inauguration. Historically, maces were used as weapons, first on battlefields and then to protect university rectors from mischief. The new GW mace bears an image of George Washington and of the university’s seal as well as “1821” (the year the university was chartered by Congress).

University mace
A new university mace has been commissioned specially for Granberg's inauguration. (William Atkins/GW Today)

The GW chain of office, worn by the president of the university as a symbol of authority, accents the president’s academic regalia. The university seal is supported by a chain of circles, squares and rectangles alternatively showing the letters “GW,” the year of the university’s charter and an image of George Washington. 

The seal of George Washington University incorporates an image of the head of George Washington, as painted by Gilbert Stuart. Above the image of Washington, an open Bible shows a Gospel verse in Greek. According to John 1:1-4, on the left page: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and, on the right page: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The words “Deus Nobis Fiducia,” (God in our trust) appear above and to the left and right.

GW university mace
(William Atkins/GW Today)

The presidential gown features four velvet chevrons on each sleeve—an honor reserved for university presidents—and is trimmed in a braided buff silk cord. The wool costume is completed with a tam in matching blue velvet and a gold bullion tassel. This symbol of office is worn at academic convocations, commencement and other occasions. 

In the processional exercise in the early part of the investiture ceremony, each school’s flag is accompanied by gonfalons (banners hung from crossbars) reflecting the university’s colors, buff and blue, with banners in colors representing that school’s field of study.

Flags of each school

The CCAS flag shows a book on a field of blue, representing philosophy. The flag of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences shows the wand of Asclepius, the Greco-Roman god of medicine, against a green field.

The flag of GW Law has a figure of blind Justice with a sword to symbolize power and scales to represent the impartiality of law. Lady Justice is shown on a purple field, the traditional color of the legal discipline. 

The flag of the School of Engineering and Applied Science bears an orange circle against a white background. The Graduate School of Education and Human Development’s flag notes its commitment to lifelong learning with a torch and books against a light blue field.

GW University chain


On its flag, the School of Business presents its medal of achievement on a khaki-colored field. The Elliott School of International Affairs has a flag showing the landmasses of the Earth against a white background and a red border.

The Milken Institute School of Public Health shows a green cross on its flag, against a salmon background with a green border. The College of Professional Studies has a lighthouse against a beige background. 

Last but not least, the flag of the School of Nursing portrays a shield with the lamp of learning against a background of apricot and navy blue.

Students, faculty, staff, alumni, families, and friends are invited to join us as we celebrate the inauguration of Ellen M. Granberg as the 19th President of the George Washington University. Register at