W. Taylor Reveley, III
September 2, 2011
According to the program, it’s now time for final words from the president. One of my specialties is quick closing remarks.
William & Mary relishes its traditions. Living more than three centuries will do that for a school. William & Mary’s traditions nourish our ties to the College. 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.
Now, I have to admit, not all traditions speak sweetly to the soul. William & Mary used to have some that needed to bite the dust. For example, freshmen used to have to wear little green & gold hats – duck beanies. I really can’t see you all in little green & gold duck beanies.
Let’s focus on traditions that do have some redeeming qualities. On Move-In 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 as Santa reads the Grinch That Stole Christmas and when everyone moves through the Wren Building’s Great Hall to toss sprigs of holly on a blazing Yule log, casting worries into the flames on the leaves of the holly. February brings Charter Day, the annual celebration of the College’s creation by Royal Charter from 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 with humor, memories, and emotion.
Some traditions are milestones in the William & Mary experience. The Wren Bell rings 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 studies 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 peals for 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 Wren Building. William & Mary’s heart is here, in the ancient Wren. In a moment, new students will move through the Wren Building toward Duke of Gloucester Street. On graduation day, seniors will walk back through the Wren, moving in the other direction, toward the Sunken Garden on their way to Commencement across campus in Kaplan Arena. As you walk through the Wren in a few moments, think of 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. The College of William & Mary is now yours!
A few final logistical matters. Very shortly, members of the Student Alumni Council 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 2015. Transfers, professional and graduate students, you can cage a pin with the appropriate year for your graduation from the students 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 Kaveh Sadeghian, the president of the Student Assembly, and I lead you through the Wren Building.
Once you get through to the other side of the Wren, then join the crowd that is cheering those still coming down the steps. Then, in due course, you should head for food, drink, and music in the Sunken Garden. When you get there, look for signs with your dorms’ names on them, or signs for transfer students and for graduate students. Behind these signs you’ll find students who’ve been at William & Mary for a while, lived in the dorms where you are now living, or who’ve come to the College as transfer students, or who’re in graduate school. These veterans are eager to meet you and share their William & Mary lore with you.
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 have our voices swell and thunder. The alma mater is best belted out with all we’ve got. Choir!