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Charter Day: A very merry William & Mary birthday

  • Happy birthday, W&M
    Happy birthday, W&M  Brittany Fallon '11 (left) and Brian Focarino '11 (right) help Louise Kale, executive director of the historic campus, hang a Charter Day banner on the Wren Building.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Editor's note: Due to the forecast calling for inclement weather, the "birthday bash" scheduled for Saturday evening has been cancelled.

William & Mary’s annual Charter Day is getting a makeover this year, thanks in large part to some students who wanted to see the College’s “birthday” celebrated in style and with a bigger guest list.

This year’s Charter Day, scheduled for Feb. 6, will include the traditional formal ceremony at 10 a.m. in Phi Beta Kappa Hall, during which Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will speak. However, several new events will also be offered this year in an effort to increase student participation in the celebration.

“Often students don’t know it’s Charter Day,” said Brittany Fallon ‘11. “They often don’t understand what Charter Day is because it’s not that big of a deal. Many students don’t go to the Charter Day ceremony that’s on Saturday morning. It’s viewed more as an alumni or a donor thing. And we really wanted to change that.”

Fallon and Brian Focarino ’11, both linguistics majors, have been collaborating with other students and various offices across campus to help students celebrate the shared values they have in the College’s traditions.

Earlier this year, the duo helped shape the convocation theme, and later they will be helping with the unveiling of the mascot, commencement, a guide to William & Mary from the students’ perspective and numerous other projects.

For Charter Day, the pair was part of a huge public relations campaign to get word about the day and its new “birthday” concept out to students. Banners created by the College’s Office of Creative Services were posted on lampposts throughout the campus and on Jamestown and Richmond Roads. British flags were hung on the Wren Building. Additionally, every student received an invitation to Charter Day.

Creative Services also created a page on the William & Mary Web site where alumni, students, faculty and staff can submit birthday messages, photos, blog posts and videos. Visitors to the site can also read a brief description of Charter Day and access a calendar of Charter Day events for 2010. The site also offers a link to Twitter, where visitors may view “tweets” about the weekend from people using the hashtag #charterday. The Web page may be viewed at

Friday, Feb. 5, is designated as “Tribe Pride Friday.” The College community is encouraged to show their Tribe pride by sporting green and gold apparel. To encourage the wearing of the College’s colors, the bookstore and alumni gift shop are offering discounts on green and gold clothing to faculty, students and staff though Friday.

Facorino and Fallon concentrated their efforts on two new events for Saturday. From 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., the College’s Commons and Sadler Center Dining Halls will host a student Charter Day dinner. The colonial themed dinner will offer foods such as lamb burgers and individual shepherd’s pies. The tables will be decked out in green and gold, and musical quartets will perform.

“We’re hoping that it’s going to be elegant,” said Fallon.

That evening, the College was planning to hold its first-ever Charter Day “Birthday Bash” celebration, during which the entire campus community was going to gather to wish the College a very happy 317th birthday with the help of President Taylor Reveley.

Though snow in the forecast cancelled this year's birthday bash event, Fallon and Focarino hope that it might be back next year and then for many years to come.

“Our hope is that this will turn into an annual celebration, uniting people from every part of campus life and just to celebrate our college and how much we love her and we are thankful for each of the 317 years that she’s been in existence,” said Fallon.

The two students said that their Charter Day efforts have afforded them the opportunity to meet a lot of people who work behind-the-scenes on campus and who share their love of the College and desire to see it thrive.

“It’s definitely changed my perspective as just a student who was involved and clearly loved the school, but it changes your understanding of how much the school loves you back and the entire family and connection you share with people you’ve never met,” said Focarino.

As Charter Day approaches, the two students with so much love for their alma mater know exactly what their birthday wish for William & Mary is.

“We wish for the college’s birthday to be continuously celebrated in a larger fashion year after year,” said Fallon.

Focarino added, “And many more to come.”