Traditions too often get lost. This is about a tradition regained.
Since 1844, with only a slight alteration 50 years later, Georgetown University has used the official corporate seal shown above. Now, fueled by GU's tradition dating back to its founding in 1789, it is gradually returning to the original 1798 version, depicted at right.
Although the decision to go back to the earlier, more delicate symbol was reached by a panel of the GU board of directors in 1977, it is just now coming into use as stocks of old stationery, documents and memorabilia are exhausted, officials said.
The recommendation to reach back to Georgetown's roots was made by the Rev. Timothy S. Healy, the university president, usually a very modern man indeed. A stained glass rendering of the old emblem is prominently visible outside Healy's office.
Both versions incorporate the American eagle holding a globe with a pair of calipers in its right claw and a Christian cross in its left. They include the university's Latin motto, Utraque Unum (Both One). GU archivist John Reynolds said this, combined with the eagle-claw depiction, is believed to reflect the school's devotion to affairs of both the world and the spirit.
Reynolds said the original design was used as a university symbol but not as a corporate seal, since one was not legally required until Congress enacted a law in 1844 incorporating the school.
A close look at the resurrected version reveals a Latin phrase locating the campus on the Potomac River "in Maryland," where it was, briefly, before the District of Columbia was carved out of the state. So it will fit perfectly if some citizens of the secular Georgetown community succeed in their campaign to secede from the District, perhaps to be rejoined to the Free State.