After being postponed by hurricane Irene last year, Convocation met with nothing but sunshine in the Sir Christopher Wren Building Yard Wednesday.
“It was definitely an adrenaline high,” Lucy Gonzalez ’16 said. “It made me feel at home. Everyone was very genuine about it, and they were so happy that we’re here and a part of the Tribe.”
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith ’71, J.D. ’79 spoke at the ceremony. Smith, unable to attend the re-scheduled Convocation the previous year, spoke to the freshman class of 2016. Appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in 1989, Smith is the first female federal judge in the state of Virginia.
“I loved seeing the eagerness, the fresh faces. It was just a sign of continuing life and progress to me,” Smith said. “It’s wonderful to stand up there and look over the crowd and see the students who will be our future leaders.”
Convocation, one of the oldest traditions at the College of William and Mary, welcomes the new class of freshmen into the College community with a ceremonial walk through the Wren Building into a cheering crowd of upperclassmen. Dining services and AMP continued the festivities with dinner accompanied by a band on the Sunken Garden.
Many aspects of the old tradition experienced changes this year. Freshmen have traditionally walked from Old Campus
through the Wren Building to the Wren Yard, but the ceremony took place in reverse this year.
Starting with the class of 2016, freshmen will now walk from the Wren Yard into Old Campus during the Convocation ceremony. The classes of 2013, 2014 and 2015 will still walk the original way during Commencement, that is, opposite the direction they walked at their Convocation ceremonies. This year’s ceremony was also moved from the first Friday of classes to Wednesday at a later time.
“We hope the new day and time will enable more new students and more members of the campus community to come,” College President Taylor Reveley said.
After Smith’s speech, freshmen proceeded through the Wren Building to shake hands with Reveley and be cheered on by their fellow students.
Smith reflected on her time at the College and remembered the importance of traditions.
“The things that remained the same were the wonderful traditions, and the things that had changed were the College moving forward in a progressive way,” Smith said.
Smith attended the College as an undergraduate and law student. After graduating from law school, she went to work as a clerk and practice law as a judge.
After leaving Williamsburg, Smith remained involved with the College as a member of the Alumni Board for six years. In 1997, Smith received the Alumni medallion, one of the College’s most prestigious awards. The College has remained an important part of Smith’s life professionally and personally.
“When the reunions come up we all come back together. I have maintained a lot of my contacts through the law school doing moot courts,” Smith said. “I have kept in touch with two professors that were really mentors to me when I was deciding to go to graduate school and law school.”
Smith encourages new students to look for the opportunities the College has to offer over the next four years.
“Walk through every open door,” Smith said. “Don’t close any doors behind you. Always be open to new opportunities and to new experiences because, here at William and Mary, in these next few years you can have that.”