The tradition of academic marshals comes from storied English universities.
In academic ceremonies, the Grand or Chief Marshal is the chief protocol officer who coordinates the ceremonial traditions of Commencement, including the processional and recessional. The Chief Marshal also is historically responsible for the school’s relics, including the mace and the baton, and is a member of the faculty.
Marshals also carry gonfalons, or banners suspended on crossbars, representing the different schools or groups in a processional. Gonfalons originated in 12th century Italy to represent various districts or quarters and are symbols of state or office, often displaying a coat of arms. They were carried in processions by chief magistrates or other elected officials.
EVMS marshals carry gonfalons to represent and announce the arrival of the platform party, members of the faculty, the School of Health Professions and the School of Medicine.