‘Keepers of the Maces’ help maintain UT tradition

Nashwa Bawab

At UT, the Facilities Services staff doesn’t just maintain campus buildings — they care for a cherished part of UT’s history: ceremonial maces.

The maces, decorative staves used primarily for commencement ceremonies, are the largest known collection in existence, according to Sally Moore, associate director of Facilities Services. The ceremonial maces are as much a part of UT’s history as the old Main Building. They were made with materials, such as wood and bronze, from parts of the building when it was torn down in the 1950s, according to Moore.

Entrusted with their care, the facilities staff is known as the “Keepers of the Maces.” Moore, who calls herself the primary “Keeper of the Maces,” said the main job description of a “Keeper” is maintenance, which only requires on-the-job training.

“I’ve been doing this for probably over 25 years, and I inherited the job from my boss way back then,” Moore said. “I’ve kind of carried it on ever since. It’s one of the responsibilities that I kind of cherish about the job that’s sort of special to our unit.”

One very important mace is the presidential mace — created specifically for Lyndon B. Johnson when he spoke at UT’s 1964 commencement. The mace was carried in honor for George H.W. Bush when he spoke at a 1990 commencement ceremony. Building Services supervisor Mary Riddle said the history carried with these staffs is why ensuring their care is a priority for Facilities Services. According to Riddle, the maces are securely wrapped and cleaned whenever they are transported outside of the case.

“They’re like our kids,” Riddle said. “We protect them, take care of them, make sure they’re handled in a proper manner as far as getting them to the area and location they need to be at.”

All 47 maces, which are displayed at the Perry–Castañeda Library, represent different moments in UT’s history and different academic departments, said Charles King, building attendant leader for Facilities Services.   

“It’s pretty cool because they all represent each department in the schools, and it’s pretty neat to be able to work with them,” King said. “We’re proud to be able to take care of the maces.”

Moore said plans for future  maces are currently in the works. The next mace will be created for the LBJ School of Public Affairs since it doesn’t have a mace of its own.

“The usage of the maces in the ceremonies has increased over time,” Moore said. “As the University has grown, we are now needing additional maces to add to the collection.”

Being a “Keeper of the Maces” isn’t easy, but it is an important job because of the ritual, history and academic ties it holds, Moore said.

“They’ve just become a tradition and part of the University,” Moore said. “I think it’s kind of special that Facilities Services can be tied to the academic portion of campus in some respects through the maces.”