The full coat of arms is displayed at ceremonial occasions, such as convocation, and is used by the chancellor as titular head of the university. Only the chancellor and vice-chancellor may use the coat of arms. The Office of the Registrar is charged with managing the coat of arms and its use.
On Nov. 15, 1909, the faculty recommended to the senate that the University of Alberta adopt the provincial coat of arms as its emblem, with the addition of an open book superimposed upon the cross and the motto “lux et lex” (light and law). In January 1911, the present motto, “quaecumque vera”, was substituted for the originally proposed motto.
In 1950, the form of the design was changed in keeping with the graphic style of the time, and a new description of the symbol was adopted.
In the 1980s, Dr. John Schlosser, chair of the board of governors, became concerned that the University of Alberta was using the provincial coat of arms without official heraldic authority. When Sandy Mactaggart became chancellor in 1990, he started working with the Canadian Heraldic Authority in Ottawa to design a coat of arms which would be heraldically correct.
Canada’s Athabaska Herald, Mr. Charles Maier, advised the university on the design of its coat of arms so it conformed to the traditional requirements of heraldic art. Since the middle ages, coats of arms have been regarded as honours conferred under the sovereign’s prerogative powers. In Canada, these powers are now exercised by the governor general, who appoints heralds to provide the necessary professional expertise.
The new design was finalized in early 1994. It was presented to the university by His Excellency the Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn, governor general of Canada, at convocation on the 13th of June 1994.