Faculty Awards Medallion
The Faculty Award Medallion was designed by Ron Bechet, an endowed professor in the Art department at Xavier University. The Medallion is a tribute to St. Katharine Drexel, her mission of educating and serving African and Native Americans, Catholicism, and outstanding achievement.
The design is in the shape of a circle which symbolizes infinity and wholeness. It is organized in three distinct areas: a central circle, a middle ground circle, and an outer circle. The Xavier seal comprises the central circle. The middle ground circle, positioned between the central and outer circles, has four stylized indentations at the edges that make reference to Nyame Dua, an Asante symbol for God’s altar. A cross of laurel leaves, symbol of honor, victory, success, and high achievement, dominate this area. A symbol of Christianity and the Catholic faith, the cross also indexes the West African concept of the cycle of life and the crossroads where all things are possible. The cross divides the middle ground into quadrants, three of which have Native American symbols. Counterclockwise, in the upper left quadrant, is a diamond shape which is a symbol of wisdom. In the lower left is a misaligned pair of brackets, a symbol of brotherhood. In the lower right quadrant is a sign for infinity, a horizontal, elongated “8”. In the upper right quadrant is the chalice and host, the logo of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. The curlicues, at the bottom of the indentations, are stylized versions of the Asante Sankofa bird which is normally depicted as flying forward while looking backward with an egg in its mouth. The bird’s looking back is often interpreted as searching one’s past in order to understand the present. The egg points to the riches of the past. In the outer circle there are two quotes that are placed in such a way to encircle the overall composition. They echo the placement of the text on the Xavier logo. The quotes, “God’s Greatest Work on Earth is Man” and “Man’s Master Art is the Leading of Man to God”, are part of the motto of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. On the medallion they are separated by the fleur-de-lis design, a symbol of the city of New Orleans and its French heritage.
In sum, the Faculty Award Medallion brings together pertinent symbols that speak to the history of the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans and its mission. Xavier’s distinction as the only Historically Black and Catholic University in the United States is acknowledged through the references to Catholicism, the cross and the Blessed Sacrament, and its African-American heritage. The medallion also makes reference to the qualities that are expected of the recipients of this prestigious award: wisdom, honor, high achievement, and success in one’s discipline.