Cedant Arma Togae

Above the west door of Old Main at the University of Wyoming, there is a beautiful stained glass. It is the Wyoming Territorial seal from 1869. The seal is a shield with a train in front of a mountain, a shovel, pick, plow and shepherd’s crook, and an arm holding a sword. Above the shield reads in Latin, Cedant Arma Togae. Let arms yield to the gown.

I never donned a gown when I graduated nearly thirty years ago. In fact, last week I attended the first college graduation ceremony I’d ever been to — my son’s graduation. It’s exciting to think about his future and the future of all the other graduates of the College of Arts & Sciences.

In 2023, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences released results of a project called Humanities Indicators. The indicators are one of “many ways of understanding the value of a college education in the humanities.”

According to Wyoming’s profile in Humanities Indicators, there are 4,900 humanities majors working full-time in the state. This represents two percent of the total Wyoming workforce. As a comparison, four percent of the nation’s workforce have humanities degrees.

A Wyoming graduate in a humanities field, 22 to 29 years old, makes on average $38,000. The 35- to 65-year-old humanities major makes an average of $65,500. The humanities graduate will earn more than those with degrees in behavioral and social sciences, education, and the arts. Degrees in engineering, business, and the natural sciences earn more than the humanities degree holder.

The humanities graduate can expect occupations in education, service and sales, management, administrative support, business and finance, the law, and many other professions. In fact, 23 percent of people with legal jobs had a degree in the humanities.

The indicators are interesting; however, they provide information on the other ways to measure the value of the humanities.

Milward Simpson, former chair of Wyoming Humanities, recently circulated an article by Dr. Timothy Morton of Rice University. Dr. Morton is a professor of English and teaches a humanities class for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students to be better scientists.

“A fact is an interpretation of data. In physics class, you learn how to interpret physics data, find patterns, relate those patterns to other ones, and produce facts about them … Humanities classes, however, prepare you to understand what facts are, period – whether they’re based on biology or on the Bible, nutrition science or novels” writes Dr. Morton. “A questioning, open-minded attitude is an essential life skill.”

The humanities are important intellectual pursuits, even if they are accompaniments to other disciplines and sciences. My son received a Bachelor of Science degree in political science with a minor in philosophy. While political science isn’t necessarily a humanities degree, the minor in philosophy provides him with the theoretical perspectives that guide an understanding of politics and governance.

My son’s education in political science and philosophy are important. I think of the violence and rancor of our politics and conflicts across the globe and reflect on the Wyoming Territorial seal. Cedant arma togae symbolized a transition from violence (“arms”) to education (“gown”).

The humanities symbolizes a transition from knowing to understanding.

As we celebrate the achievements of graduates embarking on diverse paths, cherish the humanities not just for their economic value, but for their timeless capacity to nurture curious minds and shape empathetic hearts, enriching both individual lives and society as a whole.

If you are interested in supporting language preservation and learning the ideas and stories from unlikely sources, please support Wyoming Humanities.