Hill designs ceremonial mace for Texas A&M University at Qatar

Texas A&M University at Qatar’s new ceremonial mace, designed by Rodney Hill, professor of architecture at Texas A&M, made its debut during commencement ceremonies in Qatar May 5, 2011.

“As far as I can tell from the design research I did, this is the most elaborate university mace in the world,” said Hill, who also carved the wood for the mace at his home woodshop. The mace leads the academic procession at commencement and other special ceremonial occasions.

It contains images that speak of the two institutions’ past and present and features a quote from one of Qatar’s leaders.

“The sharing of knowledge, ideas and values is the noblest way to transcend barriers,” said Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, who along with His Highness Sheikh Hamad Khalifa Al-Thani, Qatar’s emir, are two of the university’s major benefactors. The quote is on the mace in English and Arabic.

Hill was asked by Mark Weichold, dean and chief executive officer at Texas A&M-Qatar, to create a new mace for the university, located in the Persian Gulf state’s capital, Doha.

He chose images on the mace that reflected Qatar’s history and culture.

Before Qatar discovered it was on one of the largest oil fields in the world, pearls were one of the nation’s main economic drivers, so Hill’s design called for pearls on top of and on the sides of the mace.

Just underneath the pearl at the top is a representation of an Arabic dome; the nation’s tradition of falconry is represented by four falcon heads with rings that hold tassels.

The handle of the mace incorporates agricultural elements from Qatar and Texas: carved date palm leaves top silver dates, the trunk of a carved palm tree is encircled with Texas A&M’s rudder oak acorns and rudder oak leaves are carved in below the acorns.

He tied the two institutions together by intertwining limbs making up the foundation of the handle and by including the Qatar, Texas and U.S. flags as well as the Texas A&M, Texas and Qatar seals and reached into the Aggie past by including “A&M” in a style that was popular in the 19th century.

Lars Stanley, an architect and blacksmith and an outstanding alumnus of Texas A&M’s College of Architecture, made the wrought-iron stand for the mace, and Parker Brown, an artist and craftsman who owns Crescent Moon Armoury in Denton, crafted the silver part of the mace.

It’s not the first time Qatar campus officials have turned to Hill.

In 2006, Weichold, then the newly appointed dean, and Charles Bowman, the university’s outgoing dean, asked him to create a sculpture for Sheikh Hamad and Sheikha Mozah.

Hill responded with “Obelisk of Knowledge,” a 900-pound, 13-foot tall structure that depicted the history of Arabic contributions to the world in science, engineering and invention.

The finished product was so well received that Sheikha Mozah thanked Hill with a personal invitation to dinner at her palace with other dignitaries when he unveiled the piece in Doha in March 2007.

Among Hill’s other creations are the Texas A&M mace, a bronze Muster sculpture in the Academic Plaza and an 8-foot-tall wood and bronze obelisk in the Sterling C. Evans Library.

Hill is the holder of the Eppright University Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence and the Harold L. Adams ’61 Endowed Interdisciplinary Professorship in Architecture.

posted April 13, 2011