CELS gains something new—its own ceremonial mace

CELS was recently presented with its own ceremonial mace made by members of the Ocean Woodturners Club. Presenting the mace made up of 13 woods native to Rhode Island is John Chakaroff, (left) a long-time club member, to Dean John Kirby and Associate Dean Anne I. Veeger.
CELS was recently presented with its own ceremonial mace made by members of the Ocean Woodturners Club. Presenting the mace made up of 13 woods native to Rhode Island is John Chakaroff, (left) a long-time club member, to Dean John Kirby and Associate Dean Anne I. Veeger.

Something new was added at the recent commencement ceremony for those getting degrees from the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences.

Dr. Carol Thornber, this year’s recipient of the excellence in teaching award, carried a mace into the ceremony, a first for the college.

The mace exists thanks to the idea broached by Dr. Richard C. Rhodes III, associate dean, who four years ago suggested to a dean’s staff member, a woodworker, that it would be neat if the college had its own mace for ceremonial purposes. Many universities and colleges use maces at ceremonies as a symbol of university scholarship and integrity. Ceremonial maces are descendents of the weapon mace, which were used to communicate authority and protection for high ranking officials in processions–a practice that dates back centuries.

The staff member took the idea to the Ocean Woodturners Club. The club was founded in 1996 by the staff member and two other woodworkers in a Saunderstown garage and now has more than 120 members who make ornamental and practical objects using lathes. The club’s members readily approved the challenge to create a novel mace for the college.

From the beginning it was agreed that the mace would be made mostly of woods that are native to Rhode Island. The club members also thought it would be better if the task was divided up among several members making various parts.

Dr. Carol Thornber, the 2013 recipient of the Excellence in Teaching award, carries CELS' new mace at commencement May 19.
Dr. Carol Thornber, the 2013 recipient of the Excellence in Teaching award, carries CELS’ new mace at commencement May 19.

The end product was a mace made up of 13 different woods native to the state and one tropical wood, ebony, that was added for decorative purposes in a section of segmented woodturning. All expenses were met by the club.

A couple of weeks before commencement, John Chakaroff of Greenville, a retired shop teacher, delivered the mace to the college. Dean John Kirby, Associate Dean Anne I. Veeger accepted the mace—unfortunately Dean Rhodes, who started the whole thing, was out sick the day the mace was delivered.

Chakaroff was the woodturner who assembled the various parts and made the top section. Other club members who had a part in the project were Angelo Iafrate (a former president of the American Association of Woodturners), Jeff Mee, George Nazareth, Rich Lemieux, Tom Powell and Anthony Scungio.

Dean Kirby said the ceremonial mace will be put on display in one of the glass cases in the lobby of the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences when not in use.