The following remarks were given by Channing Moore Hall, III, J.D. '85, M.L.&T. '86 and John Lesslie Hall, II, during the 2010 Prentis Award ceremony, held in the Wren Building on May 11, 2010. - Ed.
Thank you, President Reveley, for your kind words and for this great honor. Channing and I are surprised and humbled to be given the prestigious Prentis Award. Both the College and our City are quite dear to us, and service to both is in our blood.
Mr. President, you had promised that, if we would give a few remarks, you would wear the new Griffon suit.
I see that you are not in costume. Channing, however, will still say a few words on our behalf to uphold our end of the bargain.
Lesslie and I speak in this venue with some trepdiation. We are ever mindful of a story about our great-grandfather, John Lesslie Hall, for whom Lesslie is named. He was a Professor of English, one of the College's "Seven Wise Men" who taught under President Tyler after the "Late Unpleasantness" of the 1860's, translator of Beowulf from the Anglo-Saxon, quite a character, and a daunting force in his classroom - now restored to its 18th Century appearance - just down the hall.
On Sundays at Bruton Parish, he would sit in the front pew, directly beneath the pulpit. If the sermon grew too long, he would extract his gold pocket watch, open it, read the time, extend the watch towards the pulpit to the length of the gold chain, ceremoniously snap it shut, and return it to his pocket. The Rector would quickly bring his preaching to a close.
Because his spirit may still walk these hallowed halls, our remarks will be brief. They will not be in Anglo-Saxon, but they may preach a little, if you will indulge me.
A pithy saying of Dr. Davis Y. Paschall, President of the College from 1960 to 1971, is appropriate to this occasion. I greatly admired this wise and warm Virginia gentleman, a county boy born in a log cabin, who used to memorize poetry while plowing the field in Lunenburg County from a book propped up in the plow handles, who worked his way through William and Mary (one of his student jobs was stoking the coal fire in great-grandfather Lesslie's furnace), with his corn cob pipe always present, of whom we are all so fond. Many of you knew him and worked with him.
Each Spring, he would admonish the graduates about their obligation to serve others: "Remember the hallmark of your degree is a Holy Grail quest for a worthy immortality through service to mankind." I think Dr. Paschall hits the nail on the head - his admonition embodies the "Prentis spirit."
Dr. Paschall was also fond of describing William and Mary as "the Pearl of Great Price" to our great Commonwealth and to our great Nation. So, too, it is with the City of Williamsburg.
The College is the quintessential American University, the "Alma Mater of a Nation." Williamsburg is the quintessential American city, "the Cradle of the Republic." The identities of both were forged in the crucible of our American Revolution. So many citizens of our City and so many children of our alma mater gave of themselves in selfless service to the common good in defense of liberty.
Like the Roman Cincinnatus, left their fields and farms to answer the call to arms and leadership, for a cause great and just. When their work was done, they returned to plowing the field.
Each of us here today stands on the shoulders of these giants, when we rally around the green and gold, and when we lend a helping hand in our community.
Although our contributions have been small, Lesslie and I are honored to be associated with these two distinguished and august institutions, and their respective traditions of service. Both Town and Gown are indeed lustrous "Pearls of truly Great Price." Williamsburg and William and Mary have been linked since their very founding in 1699 and 1693, and we hope they will always be close.
Lesslie and I are deeply moved by this great honor. We have been passed a torch by several generations of Halls who have been entwined with the City and the College. We can not begin to fill their shoes, but we hope that torch will light the path for others to follow.
Dr. Paschall's life credo is appropos here: "Today we shall walk humbly and plow the straight furrow."