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College celebrates 323rd Charter Day

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February 9, 2016

12:45 AM

At the annual Charter Day ceremony on Friday, Feb. 5, students, faculty, administration and alumni gathered in William and Mary Hall to celebrate the 323rd anniversary of the signing of the College’s Royal Charter.

College President Taylor Reveley reminded those in attendance of the tradition of the Charter Day ceremony.

“King William and [Queen] Mary granted a Royal Charter to the College in a drafty London palace on February the 8th, 1693,” Reveley said. “As is our annual habit, we now revisit the College’s seminal document.”

After eight students read excerpts from the charter, Emily Nye ’16, a marketing and English double major, reflected on the importance of the document and her time at the College. Nye is The Flat Hat’s Chief Features Writer.

“For William and Mary, ‘once upon a time’ began 323 years ago, with a king and a queen with a vision for excellence,” Nye said. “With their signing of one simple piece of paper, they set into motion the events that were the one institution through 323 years of incredible stories.”

“Charter Day is a momentous occasion, one where we pause to celebrate yet another year in the College’s long life,” Gates said.

Reveley recognized four alumni for receiving the Alumni Medallion, the highest award the Alumni Association gives to graduates. The College awarded four alumni, Ann Harvey Yonkers ‘63, Walter Stout ‘64, Jane Thompson Kaplan ‘56 and Glenne Hines Harding ‘65, this honor for their professional accomplishments, commitment to the College and dedication to the community.

Chancellor and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ’65 followed Reveley’s speech and spoke about the continuing importance of the Charter.

“Charter Day is a momentous occasion, one where we pause to celebrate yet another year in the College’s long life,” Gates said. “It’s a reminder of a time when leaders, two reigning monarchs and their subjects in a distant colony, united behind a certain place of universal study and the belief that higher education would do great good in the ‘New World.’ A unified belief still guides this university today, that a William and Mary education, one grounded in the liberal arts, will do great good in a constantly changing world.”

“William and Mary was, and continues to be, part of the fabric of my life,” Stofan said. “My undergraduate experience cemented my love of geology, but more importantly, it nurtured and continued to ignite my love of learning.”

Gates continued by expressing the importance of supporting scholarships.

“My brother and I were the first in the history of our family to attend college,” Gates said. “And it was scholarships that made it possible for me, a kid from Kansas, to come here. Scholarships put a William and Mary education in reach for generations of bold students yet to come.”

Continuing the tradition started in 1756 when the College granted Benjamin Franklin an honorary degree, the College awarded one alumna and one former faculty member with honorary degrees during the Charter Day ceremony. The College awarded NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan ’83 a Doctor of Science honoris causa. Appointed NASA Chief Scientist in 2013, Stofan researches the geology of Earth, Mars, Venus and Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. She is an associate member of the Cassini Mission to Saturn Radar Team and a co-investigator on the Mars Express Mission’s MARSIS sounder.

“William and Mary was, and continues to be, part of the fabric of my life,” Stofan said. “My undergraduate experience cemented my love of geology, but more importantly, it nurtured and continued to ignite my love of learning.”

After thanking the College for the honor, Stofan discussed the current research of NASA in the solar system, preparing for human exploration of Mars, and on Earth, investigating sea level rise and record temperatures. She finished by speaking about the importance of scientific innovation and diversity in education.

Professor Emeritus of government Jack Edwards also received a Doctor of Humane Letters. During his nearly 34 years of teaching at the College, Edwards was a government professor and Department Chair, as well as the Dean of Arts and Sciences.

The College awarded two students, Andrew Halleran ‘16 and Isaac Alty ‘16 with the Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy, and one student, Hallie Westlund ’16 with the Monroe Prize for Civic Leadership.

Assistant history professor Jeremy Pope received the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, an award which recognizes a younger faculty member who demonstrates, through teaching, the inspiration of learning as exemplified by Thomas Jefferson.

American studies and history professor Leisa Meyer received the similarly-named Thomas Jefferson Award, an award recognizing a member of the College community for outstanding service to the College through personal activities, influence and leadership.

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Emily Martell
  • Emily Martell

Chief Staff Writer Emily Martell '19 is a prospective economics major from Norfolk, VA. She formerly served as Associate News Editor.