Rain doesn't dampen Tribe Pride at Opening Convocation

  • Rainy welcome
    Rainy welcome
    New students are greeted by upperclassmen after the 2013 Opening Convocation ceremony. The rainy weather didn't stop hundreds from showing up to welcome the new members of the Tribe.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • An amazing life
    An amazing life
    Nancy Gunn '88 told students that W&M is "not just about the education. It's about the amazing people you are being educated with, some of whom will become your lifelong friends."
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Ad-hoc umbrella
    Ad-hoc umbrella
    Students try to shield themselves from the rain during the ceremony.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Rainproof regalia
    Rainproof regalia
    A faculty member uses a clear poncho to protect his academic regalia during the ceremony.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Provost's greeting
    Provost's greeting
    Provost Michael R. Halleran greeted the students, tell them that they are now part of a "a glorious tradition of learning."
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Class of 2017
    Class of 2017
    The rain-soaked Class of 2017 was unfurled as students began to walk through the Wren Building.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Warm welcome
    Warm welcome
    A new student is greeted by cheering current students on the other side of the Wren Building.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Enthusiastic greeting
    Enthusiastic greeting
    A senior greets new students as they walk out of the Wren Building .
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Presidential smile
    Presidential smile
    President Taylor Reveley smiles as he watches the traditional walk through the Wren Building.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Hello, Tribe
    Hello, Tribe
    A new student wearing a Tribe rain poncho waves back to the cheering throngs of current students.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Quite a welcome
    Quite a welcome
    A new students is lifted into the air by current students in greeting.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas

Emmy Award-winning producer Nancy Gunn ‘88 has had an extraordinary life, traveling the world and working on such shows as The Amazing Race. She has also suffered her share of challenges. However, through it all – the ups and the downs – one thing has remained constant: the support that she has received from fellow William & Mary alumni.

“Someone you meet here will change your life. Someone you meet here will make you laugh when you need it most. Someone you meet here may even save your life,” she said. “One of the things I learned here was this – it’s not about how you get knocked down, or even how many times you get knocked down. It’s about how you get back up again.”

Gunn’s message about overcoming obstacles with the help of community seemed particularly appropriate Wednesday afternoon as she addressed a crowd of new students who gathered by the Wren Building and shared umbrellas during a rainy Opening Convocation ceremony.

The annual event marks the beginning of the academic year and also serves as an opportunity for current students, faculty and staff members to welcome the newest members of the Tribe to campus.

{{youtube:medium|u4xR_V_QOWs, Opening Convocation's Freshman Walk}}

Provost Michael R. Halleran opened the ceremony by noting that Wednesday also marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.

 “It is a pleasure to both acknowledge this anniversary,” he said, “and it provides us an opportunity – all of us – to reflect on the power of the vision, moral courage and words that can capture and move a nation.”

Halleran told the new students that they are now part of “a glorious tradition of learning.”

 “We are all justly proud of our tradition and history, but we look also to the future and to you, who will strengthen and enrich this tradition during your time here and later, as you take your place in the world,” he said.

President Taylor Reveley took the podium next, casting “a giant pox on the weather gods” and promising to truncate the ceremony because “everyone is getting soggy.” The university president then officially opened the 2013-14 academic year.

{{youtube:medium|K_0IHsk2rxY, Highlights from the 2013 Opening Convocation Ceremony}}

Gunn began her address by recalling her time as a student at William & Mary, saying that she knew when she walked on campus that she was “a member of the William & Mary family.”

A theatre major at the university, she went on to work at a morgue, the United Nations and the Metropolitan Opera before moving to Los Angeles and starting her career in TV production.

“Without knowing it, TV production was what I had been preparing to do since I first walked onto campus here,” Gunn said.

Gunn went on to earn an Emmy for her work on The Amazing Race, and a few years later, worked beside old friends on Celebrity Apprentice.

“I worked hand-in-hand with lighting designers, scenic artists, actors, costumers, composers – the same colleagues I had had in the theatre department here at William & Mary,” she said. “We just had a bigger budget.”

Life was good, but Gunn was about to have what she called her “fourth act.”

She and her husband divorced, and she had to give up her job because the schedule did not fit with her new life as a single mom. Throughout that difficult period, she got by with the support of her daughter’s godparents – both W&M alumni.

“Funny how William & Mary keeps coming up, isn’t it?” Gunn said. “That’s the thing. It’s not just about the education. It’s about the amazing people you are being educated with, some of whom will become your lifelong friends.”

Gunn, who now loves her new job as the owner of a bed and breakfast in New Orleans, told the new students that they will always be close to her heart.

“I cannot wait to see what you will do,” she said. “Walk through these doors to your own, amazing adventures.”

Before sending the students on their way, Reveley presented the 2013 President’s Awards for Service to the Community. This year’s faculty recipient was Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Scott Ickes, who received it for his health and nutrition work in both the Williamsburg community and Uganda. Nadia Asmal ’15 received the student award for her work with the Campus Kitchen at William & Mary, which provides meals to local families in need using donated food. Each received $500 to donate to service agencies.

True to his word, Reveley kept his closely remarks brief, but he did take the opportunity to welcome the new students one last time before sending them – as is tradition – through the Wren Building to be greeted on the other side by throngs of cheering current students, faculty and staff.

“Know that you have now, as Nancy said, a place in a long line of William & Mary people reaching all the way back to 1693,” he said. “William & Mary is now yours for all time coming.”

Despite the rain, hundreds of people lined the sidewalk leading from the Wren Building to the Sunken Garden, yelling, clapping and generously giving high-fives to new students as the William & Mary Pep Band played.

Freshman Morgan Reinhardt was impressed with the enthusiastic reception she and her fellow new students received.

“Everyone was so much more enthusiastic than what I was expecting,” she said. “The rain was really nice, too.”

Matthew Groves ‘16 experienced a sunnier Convocation as a freshman last year.

“This convocation was a lot rainier than mine, but it was still a beautiful experience,” he said. “Being on the other side of convocation made me feel even more of a part of the William & Mary family than my first one.”

“Despite the weather, I think we all had a good time,” said Lindsey Huggins ’14. “Everyone was really enthusiastic, and even though it was raining, it was still fun. I had a great time.”

Sierra Barnes '14 contributed to this story.