William & Mary

50 years after his Convocation, Wolf says essence of W&M remains

  • Opening Convocation
    Opening Convocation  The William & Mary community gathered in the shadow of the Wren Building on Aug. 27 for the annual Opening Convocation ceremony. The event marks the beginning of the academic year.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Opening Convocation
    Opening Convocation  Rector Henry C. Wolf spoke to the students during Convocation, 50 years after he attended Convocation as a freshman himself.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Opening Convocation
    Opening Convocation  President Taylor Reveley told the new students, "The College of William & Mary is now yours for a lifetime."  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Opening Convocation
    Opening Convocation  Hundreds of faculty members, including David Holmes, dressed in academic regalia for the occasion.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Opening Convocation
    Opening Convocation  Karen Schwartz (center), a research specialist with institutional analysis and effectiveness, received the faculty/staff award for her work with the Buddy Art program at This Century Art Gallery.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Opening Convocation
    Opening Convocation  Will Morris (second from the left) received the student award for his work with Rites of Passage at Toano Middle School.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Opening Convocation
    Opening Convocation  Hundreds of current William & Mary students, alumni, staff and faculty lined the walk in front of the Wren to greet the new students as they took the traditional walk through the building.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Opening Convocation
    Opening Convocation  Current members of the Tribe were eager to greet welcome new student to the W&M family.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Opening Convocation
    Opening Convocation  President Taylor Reveley joined the crowd in welcoming the new students.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Opening Convocation
    Opening Convocation  New students were met with cheers, music from the pep band and countless high-fives.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Opening Convocation
    Opening Convocation  Some of the new students reacted to reception with shy smiles, while others triumphantly raised their arms and reflected the energy being directed toward them.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Half a century after he experienced Opening Convocation as a freshman, Rector Henry C. Wolf stood before William & Mary's students and assured them that though much has changed in the past 50 years, the core of the College remains the same.

{{youtube:medium:left|xbGu3haHl5Y, Opening Convocation 2010: The Freshman Walk}}



"Those things that have remained constant, those things that have endured, are the qualities that are the essence of William & Mary," he said. "Take time to focus on them, take time to see them and to sense them, for you will be a far richer person for having had that experience."

Wolf spoke to hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members who gathered in the shadow on the Wren Building on Aug. 27 for the College's annual Opening Convocation ceremony. The tradition marks the official opening of the academic year.

Wolf, a member of William & Mary's Class of 1964, remarked that the day was a special occasion for him since it marked the 50th anniversary of his own Convocation at the College.

"I, too, came to this wonderful old College, just as you come today, with many of the same hopes and aspirations, and yes, some of the same concerns and uncertainties, that you are experiencing today," Wolf said. "However, I can assure you that you stand on the threshold of one of the most exciting chapters of your lives."

The retired vice chairman and chief financial officer of Norfolk Southern Corporation told the assembly how different life at the College was when he was a freshman. For instance, in 1960, the College was co-educational, but there were no African-American, Asian or Latino students.

"Today, William & Mary is a place of diversity where about 25 percent of our undergraduates are students of color, and we remain steadfastly committed to diversity here," he said.

Other things that have changed on campus in the past 50 years include the availability of financial aid, the size of the campus, curfews for students, and technology.

"There was no way to text a message that might have read, ‘OMG FWIW MBF just HMU," joked Wolf.

But while there have been many changes, much has also remained the same. For instance, the College's old campus buildings, the College's list of firsts and its list of nation-building alumni, its commitment to learning, the dedication of its faculty and its values of academic excellence, honor and community.

"You are now a part of this place, and it will forever be a part of you," Wolf said.

During the ceremony, two members of the College community were honored with President's Awards for Service to the Community. Karen Schwartz, a research specialist with institutional analysis and effectiveness, received the faculty/staff award for her work with the Buddy Art program at This Century Art Gallery. According to the gallery's website, Buddy Art is "a program designed to provide art activities for children with special needs and/or physical disabilities." Senior Will Morris received the student award for his work with Rites of Passage at Toano Middle School. According to its Facebook page, Rites of Passage is "an organization dedicated to mentoring the lives of youth via manhood/womanhood training."

As he prepared the new students for the traditional walk through the Wren Building at the conclusion of the Convocation ceremony, President Taylor Reveley asked them to 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," he said.

When the new students began moving through the Wren Building moments later, they were indeed met with the "sunshine" of applause from hundreds of current William & Mary students, alumni, staff and faculty - as well as the sounds of the College's pep band and a few vuvuzelas, plastic horns that were popular during this year's FIFA World Cup.

Katherine Eklund '11, a public policy major, was among the cheering crowd.

"For me, Convocation is all about the pride that William & Mary students have and the fact that even after one, two or three years or even more that we're still excited to share our love for the school with the incoming class and it's just this great indoctrination and way to demonstrate how much we care about our school," she said.

Zach Armstrong '11, a theatre major, also took time out on Friday afternoon to welcome the Tribe's newest members.

"Convocation to me is the true symbolic start of your time here at William & Mary when you're really inaugurated into the community here," he said.

After walking through the Wren Building, the new students walked down the pathway in front of the building, getting high-fives and hugs. Some reacted with shy smiles, while others triumphantly raised their arms and reflected the energy being directed toward them.

Keilly Thorpe '14 was impressed with the reception they received.

"I would say over all it was a very pleasurable experience, and it just shows how welcoming the William & Mary campus is to us freshmen," she said. "We loved it."

Kara McElvaine '14 found that the welcome came with a challenge.

"It was really fun, but it was like a lot of pressure, especially when people were hitting you on the back saying ‘You are the future.' So yeah, it was fun, but it was also a lot to live up to," she said.

For Jess Benson '14, who plans on majoring in biology, the event came after nearly a lifetime of waiting.

"It was so much fun," she said. "I've been expecting it. Both my parents went to William & Mary so I've been looking forward to Convocation since I was about six years old, and it definitely lived up to my expectations."