You are here

The Mace Wielder

Who's the guy who will lead the procession at commencement? The ceremony's grand marshal carries the mace as our symbolic protector.

People  |  Dec 18, 2017  |  By Shane Bevell
Sadanand Verma carries the university mace during commencement

Sadanand Verma carries the university mace during commencement. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

Editor's Note: 

We're celebrating one of the best days in a Rebel's life — graduation — on Dec. 19, and we want you to help celebrate through social media. Use #UNLVGrad to share your photos, send congrats to our new alumni, or give a shout-out to whoever helped paved your way through school. For full ceremony details, visit the commencement website.

Sadanand Verma is a fixture at the university’s commencement ceremonies. The long-time mathematics professor, who hasn't missed a commencement in 50 years, has served as the grand marshal — carrying the university mace — at nearly every commencement for the last 18 years.

The mace is carried during commencement by the grand marshal, whose symbolic duty is the protection of the university, its people, and its processes. The honor goes to the faculty member with the longest tenure who is participating in the ceremony.

Verma started at UNLV in 1967, when the university was known as Nevada Southern University. He taught in the School of Engineering, Mathematics, and Sciences. Verma was instrumental in starting the university’s math program — there was no mathematics degree program at the time — and hiring faculty. He also served for many years as department chair.

Verma remembers when he started on campus there were only five buildings and approximately 3,000 motivated and determined students. Maryland Parkway was a dirt road and many departments were housed in trailers. The first commencement he attended was held in the old gym, which is now home to Marjorie Barrick Museum.

“Through the years, several entertainers and other prominent local Nevadans were awarded honorary degrees, making the activities even more memorable,” Verma said. “Entertainer Bob Hope (1970) in the Convention Center Rotunda practically stole the show. The most recent memorable one was former Las Vegan, comedian, and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, a student at UNLV from 1985-86 who received an honorary doctorate in 2013. He had the entire audience laughing by saying he worked harder on his commencement speech that he did at any of the homework he had at UNLV.”

The UNLV mace, cast by art professor emeritus Michael McCollum in 1970, was created using the lost wax process. Eric Gronborg’s design for the cubical head of the mace included facets depicting the university seal, a rendering of the Statue of Liberty, a likeness of Renaissance scholar Leonardo da Vinci, and a shelf of books flanked by artists' brushes.