DU Traditions & Regalia

The chancellor’s regalia

The chancellor’s regalia, worn at official University functions, is crimson and gold. Four velvet chevrons adorn each sleeve, signaling that the gown belongs to a chancellor or president.

The University mace

TraditionsRegalia_400x400maceA mace was originally a heavy staff or club made entirely of metal with a metal head. It was often spiked as used as a weapon of war. Later it became a scepter of office, resembling the original weapon in shape and borne on ceremonial occasions.

The University of Denver mace was produced by Colorado silversmith Connie Brauer. The 3-foot-long mace is made of sterling silver with gold plating. It incorporates minerals native to the state. Near its crown are 12 flat areas in which gemstones alternate with six symbols of the University. The gemstones are aquamarine (the state stone), rhodochrosite, citrine, blue topaz, rose quartz and heliodor beryl. The symbols are the Rocky Mountain region and Denver; an original Colorado Seminary shield; the lamp, representing undergraduate education; the torch, representing graduate and professional education; the seal of the University; and a symbol of the world. Fashioned in opalescent enamel, the symbols represent the scope of this institution, from the Rockies to the world.

The University mace rests on the lectern at formal University events.

The University medallion

The DU medallion is worn by the chancellor for official academic functions. Originally presented to the institution by Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, the silver and gold medallion incorporates the University seal and motto, as well as four jewels on the electron orbits.

The medallion is suspended by a massive silver chain that bears the name of the University’s 18 chancellors. The medallion symbolizes the degree-granting power of the University and the authority of the chancellor as the institution’s chief administrator.

Chancellor Buchtel’s original red vest has been carefully restored and is displayed in the chancellor’s suite in the Mary Reed Building.

The Chancellor’s red vest

TraditionsRegalia_400x400vestOn Feb. 17, 1900, Chancellor Henry Buchtel hosted a senior breakfast in his home. In the interest of festivity and to invest the occasion with dignity, he wore a handsome red vest. In later years, DU quarterbacks were promised a similar red vest if they led their teams to victory.

The tradition lapsed for many years, until Chancellor Chester Alter, who served from 1953 until 1966, resurrected it for gala occasions. Since then, many University chancellors have sported red vests of their own, wearing them as symbols of leadership, hope and promise.

In the tradition of the red vest, Chancellor Chopp will wear a custom-made red coat incorporating a set of gold buttons commissioned by Dan Ritchie during his tenure as chancellor and worn by her two predecessors.

The University charter

TraditionsRegalia_400x400charterThe charter of the Colorado Seminary was approved on March 5, 1864, by the Council and House of Representatives of the Colorado Territory. Twenty-eight individuals were listed as constituting a “body politic and corporate for the purpose of founding, directing and maintaining an institution of learning.”


Past Chancellors

Seventeen previous chancellors have led the University since it was founded in 1864.

Gaps in the chronology reflect periods when the University was led by an acting chancellor.

Robert Coombe: 2005-June 2014

Robert-Coombe100x100Robert Coombe was a part of the University for 33 years, in roles including department chair, dean, provost and chancellor. During his tenure as chancellor the University hosted the 2012 presidential debate, completed the successful Ascend fundraising campaign, and kicked off an initiative to advance the University’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs. Read more about Coombe.

Daniel L. Ritchie: 1989-2005

Dan-Ritchie100x100Daniel Ritchie oversaw the beginning of a construction boom that renewed the University of Denver campus. It created a number of new buildings, including the Daniel L. Ritchie Center for Sports & Wellness, which has become a Denver landmark and is incorporated into the DU shield. Read more about Ritchie.

Dwight Morrell Smith: 1984-1989

Dwight M. Smith has been a faculty member at the University of Denver for 43 years. He became a chemistry professor at DU in 1972, and he serves actively as a research professor today.

Ross Pritchard: 1978-1984

Ross Pritchard_001Ross Pritchard helped develop the campus of the Colorado Women’s College, and he oversaw the building of the Driscoll University Center, often recognized as the pedestrian bridge over Evans Avenue.

Maurice Bernard Mitchell: 1967-1978

Maurice MitchellMitchell led the University during the turbulent era of the Vietnam War and was chancellor during the student occupation of Carnegie Green in 1970, commonly known as Woodstock West. Under his administration the University founded its well-known annual Denver Publishing Institute and constructed Penrose Library (which has since been remodeled and converted to the Anderson Academic Commons).

Chester M. Alter: 1953-1966

Chester Alter_001Under Chester Alter’s chancellorship, DU’s football legacy ended and hockey assumed dominance as the University’s flagship sport. Also, the campus grew from 75 to 125 acres, and Evans Chapel was rescued from demolition and moved to campus from downtown Denver. In tribute, the DU campus was designated the Chester M. Alter Arboretum in 1999. Read more about Alter.

Albert Charles Jacobs: 1949-1953

Albert Jacobs_001After serving as a faculty member and administrator at Columbia University for 25 years, Jacobs came to DU determined to emphasize increasing academic quality. During his tenure the Pioneers hockey team played its debut game in the new DU Field House Arena, originally a naval drill hall in Idaho that was donated by the federal government. The hall was deconstructed, shipped to Colorado, and rebuilt.

Albert Clarence Nelson, Interim: 1948-1949

Alfred Nelson_002Nelson oversaw the peak of the University’s post-World War II enrollment, when Quonset huts were set up on the south side of campus to house the large numbers of GI Bill students and their families. One of DU’s own, Nelson earned both his master’s and bachelor’s degrees at the University of Denver.

James F. Price: April-October 1948

James Price_002Price joined the University in 1945 as dean of both the law school and the business school. During his short time as chancellor the University launched the University of Denver Press, the first university press to publish new fiction. Though it closed in 1954, at its peak the Press had a catalog of roughly 400 titles.

Ben Mark Cherrington: 1943-1946

Ben Cherrington_001Cherrington was a leader in the international relations field. After his time as chancellor, he became one of the authors of the United Nations Charter and a co-founder of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In recognition of Cherrington’s contribution to international education, the University named its popular undergraduate study abroad program and the building housing what is now the Josef Korbel School of International Studies in his honor.

Caleb Frank Gates: 1941-1943 and 1946-1947

Caleb Gates_001A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Caleb Gates oversaw the purchase of the Lamont School of Music. He left his position temporarily to serve in the military during World War II.

David Shaw Duncan: 1935-1941

David Shaw Duncan_001David Shaw Duncan steered the University out of the financial troubles it experienced in the Great Depression, in part by convincing faculty to volunteer for a 6 percent pay cut.

Frederick Maurice Hunter: 1928-1935

Frederick Hunter_001Frederick Hunter was an advocate of all levels of education throughout his career, and he served as president of the National Education Administration. Hunter was adamant that the University of Denver needed a high-quality library. Despite the Depression, he succeeded in having the Mary Reed Library built in 1932. (Mary Reed now houses administration offices.)

Heber Reece Harper: 1922-1927

Herber Harper_001Under Harper’s leadership, DU’s athletic teams took on the name Pioneers and Hilltop Stadium was built. The Stadium would go on to host not only 35 years of Pioneers football, but also a Charles Lindbergh appearance and 13 early Denver Broncos games. The Harper Humanities Garden west of the Mary Reed Building honors Harper’s work to advance academic pursuits in the humanities.

Henry Augustus Buchtel: 1899-1920

Henry BuchtelHenry Buchtel was elected governor of Colorado during his tenure as University chancellor, and for two years he served in both roles. Upon his appointment as governor, DU students, faculty members and friends presented him with the University mace, which is still used in University ceremonies.

William Fraser McDowell: 1890-1899

William McDowell_001The Clarion student newspaper was first published during William McDowell’s chancellorship.

David Hastings Moore: 1880-1889

David H Moore_001When David Hastings Moore, a Civil War veteran, took the helm of the University of Denver, it had 30 students and six faculty members. He spearheaded the University’s move from downtown Denver to the University Park campus and created schools of law, business, oratory, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and music. Read more about Moore.