The Lamp of Learning (represented in Ryerson’s Coat of Arms as the symbol of intelligence) was donated to Ryerson in 1948 by G.D.W. McRae, the founding Director of the School of Architectural Technology and was first used as a trophy for the Institute’s legendary chariot races in the early 1950s.
While Mr. McRae was visiting Rome in 1929, he discovered the lamp in a shop in a section of the city called Piazza Navonna which is the site of the Circus Maximus.The trophy consisted of the shallow bronze lamp which was mounted on a tapering cylindrical wooden base, designed and made by the School of Furniture Arts (now Interior Design).
In 1953, a new trophy replaced the Lamp for the chariot races and it assumed a new role as the symbol of the lamp of learning for use during Convocation ceremonies. The base of the lamp was shortened and attached to a purple velvet cushion to be carried at the head of the Convocation procession. The Lamp of Learning served this ceremonial function until sometime in the 1980s, before being donated to the Archives in 1989. (Artifact 179)