The University Flag
A key design element for a pedestrian plaza that replaced the driveway in front of John T. Williams Hall in the early 1990s was color and movement.
The new layout included 16 flagpoles for the flags of nations representing international students to flutter in the Eastern Shore breeze.
President William P. Hytche recognized a need for an official institutional flag to fly alongside the United States, Maryland and Somerset County flags.
His first instinct was to conduct a student contest, but results were unsatisfactory. The process sparked an idea, however. Hytche, a mathematician, did not consider himself an artist. So he turned to Ernie Satchell, UMES’ long-time fine arts department chairman, for help.
Satchell, who retired in 2010 after a 39-year teaching career, recalled “Dr. Hytche calling me into his office and providing me with a loose sketch on a sheet from a white legal pad.”
Hytche happened upon a subliminal but brilliant way to memorialize the university’s founding in a standard.
Drawing inspiration from the Somerset flag, itself an off-shoot of the United Kingdom’s Union Jack, Hytche’s idea for a university flag featured 17 vectors, alternating between maroon (nine) and gray (eight) with a circle in the middle.
The 17 vectors represented the original number of black land-grant institutions established by the 1890 Morrill Act. The nine maroon vectors stood for the number of students who enrolled in the Delaware Conference Academy - UMES' original name - when it opened in September 1886.
In place of the profile of an Indian’s head on Somerset’s flag, Hytche substituted his best rendering of a hawk, the UMES mascot since the mid-1950s.
Satchell (’63) asked one of his talented students, Jerry Miles (‘93), to draw a hawk. Miles’ rendering is still seen today on many UMES publications and apparel. Using the Miles’ drawing of the UMES Hawk, Satchell produced a final design for the flag, which was manufactured through the Country Flag Shop in Berlin, Md.
The UMES flag flies today in front of Williams Hall at the head of the International Flag Mall, a visual representation of the university’s history and spirit.
as told to GAINS HAWKINS