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The Back Story: The Presidential Medallion

When commencement calls for full regalia, our president takes the stage in style. Here's how our presidential bling came to be.

Campus News  |  Dec 13, 2017  |  By UNLV News Center
Presidential Medallion

UNLV Presidential Medalion (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services) 

When Len Jessup appears at the podium in full academic regalia at commencement, he’ll be sporting UNLV’s presidential medallion around his neck. At more than 10 ounces, it's a weighty symbol of the continuity of leadership at the university.

The medallion was cast in sterling silver and hand-engraved with the state seal of Nevada as the centerpiece. The names of UNLV’s leaders — starting with Donald Moyer and running through Jessup — and the years they served are carved on individual links in the chain.

The Consolidated Students of the University of Nevada (CSUN) commissioned the medallion from Huntington Jewelers in 1973 as a gift to the university.

Presidential MedallionCasting and engraving such an intricate, heavy piece was a challenge for jeweler Jack Huntington, who was known as Las Vegas’ hand-engraving expert for more than 50 years. He learned to carve in the Boy Scouts before graduating from Bradley University’s engraving school.

It took Huntington several days to carve the wax for the medallion’s mold by hand. From that, he developed the cast into which he poured the melted silver.

Jack Huntington, who passed away Feb. 2, 2016, had said it was a privilege to create the medallion the same year his son Ric graduated with a BS in accounting.

“This was one of my prize accomplishments,” he said in a 2007 interview for UNLV Magazine. “Engraving has always been something very special, and I’ve had the fortunate ability to create tradition.”

He passed the engraving tradition on to his oldest sons. Ric now runs the family business while Ron engraved the most recent link in the medallion chain for President Jessup.