GTCC staff member creates commencement mace from fallen tree on Jamestown campus

Published on: May 7, 2024
GTCC Faculty Workload Coordinator H. Louise Butler creates a mace in her woodworking shop that Dr. Clarke will carry at 2024 Commencement ceremonies.
H. Louise Butler has been woodworking for over 45 years. She now gets to combine her passion with her career and contribute to the commencement ceremony in a significant way.

H. Louise Butler has been a member of the Guilford Technical Community College staff since 2020, but she has been pursuing her other talents and passions in life for more than 45 years.

Outside of her time at GTCC, Butler is a woodworker, woodturner, and stained-glass artist and educator.

“I come from a long line of wood workers,” explained Butler. “My father, grandfather, and great grandfather were all master cabinet makers. I’ve always had a connection to wood.”

Butler has made countless projects over the years, many of which she donates to charities and fundraising events. Woodworking is a personal endeavor for Butler.

“Several years ago, I made some pens for a gentleman who had written a book about growing up on a tobacco farm. I also grew up on a tobacco farm. I saw he was writing from a regular pen, so I asked if he would want a pen made of a tobacco stick,” explained Butler. “So, I gave him two pens, one from a 200-year-old piece of tobacco stick. When I gave it to gentleman, he cried, because he’d lost that memory from his family’s farm and no longer had a connection to those memories. I was able to share the memories of my own family’s farm with him.

“It’s sharing those memories and having a connection with the wood. It’s when you know where it came from and what it used to be. It has another life and is continuing in a new way.”

This year, one of her main projects hits close to home, too.

Butler is creating a ceremonial mace for GTCC’s Spring 2024 commencement ceremonies. A mace is carried at events to signify that the proceedings have official sanctions. This is the first year GTCC will present a mace during commencement.

April Sandoval, administrative assistant to GTCC President Dr. Anthony Clarke, reached out to Butler after finding her information and connecting her to GTCC. After meeting, Butler agreed to make the mace.

When given this task, Butler knew she had to include a piece of GTCC into the project.

“I like to use wood that I know something about, like where it came from,” said Butler. “I love to make something out of that wood that can connect to the person who gave it me.”

The mace is being created out of a fallen tree from the Jamestown campus. In the summer of 2023, a storm hit campus leaving behind the perfect source from which Butler could create.

Butler explained that to use the wood, it must be below a certain moisture percentage. The wood from the tree has been drying since July 2023, and has been in a homemade kiln for the last two months to speed up the drying process.

“It’s going to be a little challenging, and it’s going to take a good while. It’s going to be heavy, too,” said Butler. “It’s going to be about four and a half feet total, so it’s a substantial piece.”

The mace will be finished by commencement and will feature brass components created by another of GTCC’s own— Machining Instructor, Derek Seeke.

Butler said she was excited to be a part of a major GTCC event.

“I just like having the opportunity to give something back because GTCC gave me an opportunity after the company I had worked for for 30 years had closed their door,” said Butler. “So, if I can do something back by doing something I love to do, that’s great.”

Back to All Articles