Hurricane Irene may have delayed William & Mary’s Convocation for a week, but it couldn’t dampen the spirits of the College’s new students as they kicked off the 2011-12 academic year on Friday with the traditional walk through the Wren Building.
It was a moment that Ginger Ambler '88, Ph.D. '06, vice president for student affairs, told the crowd of freshmen, transfer students and new graduate students gathered in the Wren Courtyard to savor.
“If there is but one message I can convey as you begin your William & Mary journey, it is this – savor it,” she said. “Savor the moments, savor the gatherings, savor the legacy.
Ambler filled in as Convocation speaker when the ceremony, originally slated for Aug. 26, was rescheduled because of the approach of Hurricane Irene. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith ’71, J.D. ’79, who was going to serve as the speaker at the original ceremony, will speak at next year’s Convocation.
Ambler said that being asked to speak at the annual ceremony was a “tremendous personal honor.”
In her address, she spoke of the moments she savored as a student at the College – from eating Cheese Shop bread ends in the Sunken Garden to talking all night with the man who would become her husband.
“You will have your own moments to savor,” she said. “There is a part of the William & Mary experience that will be yours, and yours alone. Savor those personal moments of meaning.”
Following Ambler’s comments, William & Mary President Taylor Reveley presented the President’s Awards for Service to the Community, which are presented annually at Convocation to one student and one faculty or staff member. The awardees are presented with $500 to give to the service agencies of their choice.
Rich Thompson, associate director of operations at the Sadler Center, received the faculty/staff award for his efforts to “reduce the carbon footprint both on campus and in the Williamsburg community,” said Reveley.
Thompson has been involved with the William & Mary Sustainability Committee, and he has worked with the Pedal the Parkway and Historic Triangle Bicycle Advisory Committee. Thompson donated half of his $500 to the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation and the other half to the William & Mary Police Department.
“Rich, you have made a difference,” said Reveley.
Cassie Powell ’12 received the student award for her work with the William & Mary Campus Kitchen and Buddy Art.
“In her own words, ‘Sometimes, when I am leaving for the day, the children will run along the sidewalk until my car disappears. In the entirety of my college experience, this is the image I will remember most,’ ” Reveley said, quoting Powell.
Powell donated her $500 to the William & Mary Campus Kitchen. She also received a one-time $1,000 scholarship from an anonymous donor who wanted to honor her for her service work.
“Cassie, good work,” said Reveley.
Closing the ceremony, Reveley noted that not all of William & Mary’s traditions – including having freshmen and sophomores wear green and gold “duck caps” – have stood the test of time.
However, he said, many of the traditions that still exist, including the Convocation ceremony, serve as “milestones in the William & Mary experience.”
“William & Mary’s traditions nourish our ties to the College,” Reveley said. “They are moments of shared experience with other people now on the campus. But they go further. They are also moments of shared experience across the William & Mary generations, with graduates of all ages and classes. And, of course, traditions are fun -- occasions to have a great time, to be jubilant.”
After giving the students instructions for walking through the Wren Building after the ceremony – another William & Mary tradition -- Reveley asked them to think about “the countless William & Mary people who have shared this place with you.”
“As you emerge from the Wren into our applause this afternoon, remember that you now have a place in the long William & Mary line reaching back to 1693,” he said. “The College of William & Mary is now yours.”
When the students walked through the Wren Building, they were met on the other side by boisterous cheering and applause from faculty, staff and other students who were holding signs and giving high-fives to the new members of the Tribe. They then proceeded to the Sunken Garden where they met with other students and alumni who once lived in the residence halls where they now live.
Several of the new students said that they enjoyed the event.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Julia Baum ’15. “It was fun to see all the upperclassmen on the other side.”
“I felt really welcomed,” said Kelsey Sweeney ’15. “I was not expecting it at all ... I was smiling the entire time and just high-fiving random people.”
Sabrina Jugo ’15 agreed.
“It was really awesome seeing everyone so enthusiastic over something so simple as us coming here,” she said.
Kyle Babinowich ’12, an orientation aide, was one of the people who enthusiastically greeted the new students.
“As a senior I think it’s really cool,” he said, adding that the event made him think back on the time he walked through the Wren as a freshmen and of all the other students who did it before him.
Neal Desai ’14, who is also an orientation aide, said that Convocation marks the end of orientation.
fun to see my guys come in, be lost…,” he said. “Walking through these doors,
they’re all grown up now.”
Ameya Jammi '12 contributed to this story