Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2017

PRESIDENTIAL PROFILE: SWCC President Mark Estepp Crafts VCCS Mace

Submitted by Pat Bussard, SWCC

The college mace is the premier symbol of the academic procession of college administrators, faculty, staff, and most importantly, students.  Traditionally, the ceremonial staff is carried in the procession immediately prior to the president of an institution of higher learning.

SWCC President and master furniture maker Mark Estepp was recently asked to craft the new mace that will represent the 23 colleges in the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). “I was asked by Christopher Lee, the associate vice chancellor of Human Resource Services, to create the mace,” said Estepp. It was a task he readily accepted, as he is known for his beautifully turned pieces of wood artistry. “I wanted the finished piece to speak to the hardwoods of our region in southwest Virginia and to high-tech manufacturing,” he said.   

To help make his vision a reality, Estepp was given a beautiful piece of cherry wood from a farm in Southwest Virginia by SWCC faculty member, Jereial Fletcher. The wood had been on his wife’s family farm for more than 100 years. Time had cured it into a perfect specimen for the mace.

When completed after several weeks of work, the mace stood more than five feet in length and weighed about 10 pounds. The defined and smoothed wood grain highlighted the beauty of the region’s hardwoods. The top of the mace was then graced by a VCCS logo made of stainless steel encased in cherry wood. Beneath the head of the mace is a metal cylinder on which the initials of all 23 community colleges are inscribed. The bottom of the mace was capped in metal to preserve the wood.  “To pull high tech into the creation of the mace, I contacted the only company in this part of Virginia that can laser inscribe something on a round piece of metal,” said Estepp.  

A part of southwest Virginia will always be present during special events in which this representation of all of Virginia’s community colleges is carried and displayed. “The combination of the southwest Virginia-harvested cherry hardwood and stainless steel are expertly combined, creating a one-of-a-kind masterpiece,” said Dr. Glen DuBois, chancellor of the VCCS.  Dr. DuBois also commented that, “Your (Dr. Estepp’s) design and woodworking skills make it possible for us to ensure that our events, like yours at SWCC, are graced with elegance and meaning.”

Like many artists who secretly place their initials somewhere within or upon their creations, Dr. Estepp has hidden his somewhere upon the stainless steel that graces the mace. According to Dr. Estepp, with a twinkle in his eye, no one has found it yet.

SWCC President Mark Estepp with Mace'

Laura Osberger

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