Convocation, 2010

W. Taylor Reveley, III
August 27, 2010

Now we come to final words from the president.  One of my specialties is quick closing remarks. 

William & Mary relishes its traditions.  Living more than 317 years will do that for a school. In the words of a famous Scot, “What an enormous magnifier is tradition! How a thing grows in the human memory and in the human imagination, when love, worship, and all that lies in the human heart, is there to encourage it.”    William & Mary’s traditions nourish our ties to the College.  They are moments of shared experience not only with those now on the campus but also with William & Mary people across the generations. And, of course, traditions are fun – occasions for jubilation. 

Some of our traditions mark the passage of the academic year.  Last Friday night, you sang the alma mater in the Wren yard with your classmates during the “move-in day” serenade of the president.  At the end of each term, during exams, comes the midnight Primal Scream in the Sunken Garden.  In December we have the Yule Log ceremony, when the president impersonates Santa and reads the Grinch That Stole Christmas and when everyone moves through the Wren Building’s Great Hall to cast sprigs of holly on a blazing Yule log, tossing worries into the flames on the leaves of the holly. February brings Charter Day, the annual celebration of our Royal Charter.  Coronation Day, one of our newest traditions, comes in April as we celebrate our royal progenitors, King William and Queen Mary.  The raucously elegant King and Queen Ball helps ring down the curtain on the academic year.   The senior candlelight ceremony in the Wren yard marks the night before graduation.

Then there are different traditions to commemorate the milestones in our William & Mary experience.  We hear the Wren Bell on many of these occasions.  It rings to welcome our newest students after Opening Convocation. You are about to hear it do this.  The Wren Bell sounds again when classmates begin their walk to Commencement at the end of their academic time on campus, and before that, when each senior gets to pull the rope and ring the bell on his or her last day of classes at William & Mary. The Wren Bell marks weddings in the Chapel, 50th class reunions, the installation of new William & Mary presidents, and the annual Sunset Ceremony where the alumni and alumnae who died during the previous year are remembered by name in a deeply moving rite.

For many traditions, we gather, as this afternoon, at the Sir Christopher Wren Building, where our College began. Over the centuries William & Mary has grown enormously, but its heart remains here. In a moment, you new students will move through the Wren Building toward DOG street. On your graduation day, you will walk back through the Wren, moving in the other direction, toward the Sunken Garden on your way to Commencement across campus in Kaplan Arena.  As you walk through the Wren in a few moments, think of the countless generations of William & Mary people who have shared this place with you, whose feet have trod where yours now walk.  As you emerge from the Wren into the sunshine of our applause this afternoon, know that you now hold a place in the long and marvelous William & Mary line reaching back to 1693.  The College of William & Mary is now yours for a lifetime.

At William & Mary, our cherished traditions, like the exquisite beauty of our campus, the College’s roots running deep into America’s past, and our rare combination of “the brains of a research university with the heart of a college” – all this and much more set this university apart from all others.  There truly is only one William & Mary.  To be from William & Mary is a unique distinction.  It is a privilege and an honor of surpassing value.

A few final logistical matters.  Very shortly, a hardy band of alumni and alumnae will move among you with a gift symbolizing your new status as a member of the Tribe, a green and gold lapel pin with the class year 2014. Transfers, professional, and graduate students, you can cage a pin with the appropriate year for your graduation from the alumni on the steps as you process.  Wear these with robust pride.

Our collective rendition of the alma mater is yet to come.  We will be led in song by William & Mary’s superb choir.  Following the alma mater, everyone except our new students should move briskly to the other side of the Wren so you can greet the new members of our community.  New students, please stay where you are until Chrissy Scott, the new president of the Student Assembly, and I lead you through the Wren Building.

Finally, in due course, we should all head for food, drink, and music in the Sunken Garden. 

Now for the alma mater.  It begins “Hark the students’ voices swelling” and its refrain roars “Hear the thunder of our chorus.”  So, let’s unleash our voices to swell and to thunder.  The alma mater is best belted out with all we’ve got.   Choir!