When Linda Arthur met President Elson S. Floyd at convocation in August, she knew it was time for a new robe.
 
“He was wearing standard, but boring, black academic robes,” Arthur said. Floyd then asked Arthur, a professor in the department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles (AMDT), to create ne
w academic robes for him.
 
Arthur saw this as an opportunity for the president to make a statement. “There are a lot of rules on academic robes, but there’s more freedom for presidential robes. He is our president and he needs to stand out,” she said.
 
Dynamic diversity
Arthur, an avid collector of ethnic textiles, suggested the use of a stole that would signify the ethnic variety at WSU and throughout the state.
 
“Wearing a stole is rather unusual, which makes it more dynamic in terms of visual presentation,” she said. A committee with representatives from the president’s office and AMDT faculty and students worked from August until the day before December commencement to develop the robe, hood, tam and stole.
 
“I deeply appreciate the efforts of everyone who worked on this stole,” Floyd said. “Not only is it a beautiful garment, but it also embodies an important message about the diverse cultures that contribute to this great university.”
 

Color challenge
When creating the stole, research was done on the various ethnic groups that could be represented. “It was difficult to represent every student, but I think we did a good job of representing the variety of students,” said Deborah Christel, an undergraduate who worked on the project.
 
 
The committee decided the stole’s colors should be crimson and gray, so choosing textiles became difficult at times.
 
“Ethnic groups often attach meaning to different colors, such as yellow, but yellow wouldn’t have worked well with crimson and gray,” Arthur said.
 
Specially spun
The stole included textiles from locations including Ecuador, India, Scotland and Japan. Many came from personal collections of Arthur or her colleagues. Some were available commercially, but four were hand-woven by fiber artists specifically for the stole.
 
Master Salish weaver Susan Pavel hand-spun and wove two pieces of that traditional Indian tribal design. Other custom pieces included a Hawaiian hand appliqué by Charlotte Hughes, an American coverlet sampler by Cynthia Hosek and embroidered pieces representing the Nez Perce tradition by Ann MacCormack.
 
“We are so grateful that the president is tall,” Arthur said. “That way we were able to include so many pieces.”
 
New robes too
President Floyd also was wearing new robes at graduation. A charcoal gray robe was ordered by the committee, but it did not arrive in time. Another robe was ordered quickly from a different company; the company had a rare shade of red that Arthur knew would photograph well.
 
“Crimson does not photograph well if it is not the proper shade,” Arthur said. “It can look like raspberry.” The gray robe did arrive eventually, so now Floyd has two from which to choose.