Convocation marks 100 years of coeducation

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Freshmen, transfer students participate in annual August convocation ceremony to mark beginning of their college careers. AMELIA LUCAS / THE FLAT HAT

A sea of new students filled the Sunken Garden Wednesday, Aug. 29, marking the official beginning of the 2018-19 academic year and College of William and Mary President Katherine Rowe’s first Convocation ceremony.

This year’s Convocation was in many ways dedicated to the 100th anniversary of co-education at the College.

In his opening remarks, Provost Michael Halleran thanked Jayne Barnard and Val Cushman, the co-chairs of the 100th Anniversary Committee.

“With this Convocation, we start the beginning of the academic year and we celebrate especially the women and men who are beginning their William and Mary careers,” Halleran said. “We also celebrate a milestone in the university’s history, 100 years ago in September 1918, 24 first-year students became the first women to attend William and Mary, making us the first university of co-education in the commonwealth of Virginia.”

“With this Convocation, we start the beginning of the academic year and we celebrate especially the women and men who are beginning their William and Mary careers,” Halleran said. “We also celebrate a milestone in the university’s history, 100 years ago in September 1918, 24 first-year students became the first women to attend William and Mary, making us the first university of co-education in the commonwealth of Virginia.”

Also in attendance was Virginia Sen. Monty Mason ’89, who presented a resolution to Rowe, honoring the College for being the first public university in the state to allow co-education.  The resolution was passed by the Virginia General Assembly.

“How appropriate in the 100th year of women at William and Mary that we present [this resolution] to our first female president,” Mason said. “I am always excited to welcome a new class, but I am really excited to welcome you because you are freshmen in her first year, and the first class she will see all the way through your four years at William and Mary. Last year we honored three incredible women, the first three African Americans in residence.”

Mason also discussed changes he’s seen in the Tribe Athletics department, such as the hiring of Athletics Director Samantha Huge, as a success.

“There was a coach in the athletics department named Millie West, who was a coach of many things but ultimately became the athletics director for women,” Mason said. “Millie famously told the president and the athletics director that she didn’t want anything more, she just wanted the same amount of money that the men got. I tell you that today because we have an incredible athletics director, Samantha Huge, that follows in her footsteps.”

In another first celebrated at the College’s Convocation, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy ’00 took the stage as the keynote speaker. Murphy is the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress.

“I stand here, the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, sharing a stage with the first woman chosen to lead this great university,” Murphy said. “I look out at all of you, a sea of faces composed of young men and women of every race and creed, and I feel motivated by our past, inspired by our progress and hopeful for our future. Above all, I feel pride and joy.”

Murphy said that it was important for the new students to be good citizens, and that the College is a valuable place to become a good citizen. She also shared some pieces of advice that would help along the way: Know that democracy is not self-sustaining, study American values, learn that opinions can and should evolve, seek out different people and learn how to argue points effectively.

“If you do all these things, you will leave William and Mary prepared to be the good citizen that this great country needs so badly right now,” Murphy said.

“If you do all these things, you will leave William and Mary prepared to be the good citizen that this great country needs so badly right now,” Murphy said.

Rowe also shared some remarks during the ceremony, and once again shared how her experiences with Ultimate Frisbee during her first year at Carleton College taught her how to be bold and helped her find a sense of community.

“As we embark on our path, through the Wren, remember that we benefit in countless ways from the generous engagement and philanthropy of those who came before,” Rowe said in a press statement. “The transformation of leadership is to understand ourselves always and already as the host, even as we arrive in new places. In doing so, you ensure that William & Mary will be your creation — the community you create intentionally in the classroom, in the dorms, on the playing field, on stage, in the studio — everywhere you go.”

Rowe also presented two members of the College with awards for their community service work. One, Tom Chamberlain, a volunteer police officer with the William and Mary Police Department, was awarded for his work with Dream Catchers Therapeutic Riding.

The other, Danny McNeil ’19 received an award of $500 for his work coordinating the annual Out of Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk on campus.