p. Queen Elizabeth II graced the campus today with a brief visit and was escorted by College President Gene Nichol, Chancellor Sandra Day O’Connor, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and others from the President’s House to the Wren Building, where she rang the Wren bell and became an honorary member of the Class of 2007.
p. Spectators filled the courtyard, trying to glimpse the woman who has reigned as monarch of the United Kingdom for 55 years.
And some even got to speak with her.
p. “I was extremely honored that she took the time to share a few words with me,” senior Sarah Rybak said, explaining that the Queen paused on her walk to the Great Hall to ask the student about her plans after college. “She was very soft-spoken and sweet.”
p. The Office of University Relations estimated that 6,800 to 7,000 people attended the event.
p. The crowd cheered when the doors of the Wren Building opened at 2:30 p.m., and a procession of prestigious College and government officials walked through, including Nichol, O’Connor, Board of Visitors Rector Michael Powell, Kaine and Lieutenant Governor Bill Bowling. Adorned in a purple dress with a large purple hat, the Queen entered and greeted the crowd with her signature wave.
p. “I think it is fair to say that your ancient college is delighted and proud to welcome you back,” Nichol said at the podium, referring to the Queen’s 1957 visit. “It is an honor beyond description to enjoy your company.”
p. He quoted O’Connor — whom he welcomed as the College’s chancellor from the same podium a little over a year ago — then spoke of the College’s strong historical ties and shared heritage with Great Britain.
p. Afterward, the William and Mary Choir sang “Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit,” followed by a joint performance of the Accidentals and the Gentleman of the College, who rocked back and forth in a jazzy rendition of “Bring it on Home to Me.”
p. Then Class of 2007 President Jess Vance explained the tradition of seniors ringing the Wren bell after their last class of the spring semester. She asked the Queen to become an honorary member of the class, “complete with bell ringing.”
p. The Queen, followed by a large procession, walked down the Wren steps and around to the Great Hall. She stopped periodically to say a few words to people in the crowd, especially to the small children who found their way to the front.
p. Inside the Hall, she met many student representatives, including Student Assembly President and Vice President Zach Pilchen and Valerie Hopkins, both sophomores, and former SA President Ryan Scofield, a senior.
p. “She said that this whole experience made her feel a little like Rip Van Winkle,” Pilchen said. “It was fantastic.”
p. He said he thanked the Queen for making her trip carbon neutral, which means the trip paid for things such as tree-planting to offset the greenhouse gasses emitted by her transportation.
p. “It was surreal when the door opened,” Pilchen said. “I’m talking literally person-to-person with the Queen about carbon emissions. I’d say that’s pretty cool — not too many people get that opportunity.”
p. The Queen will now continue her trip to the United States as she travels to Kentucky for the Kentucky Derby.
p. After she left, Campus Police Chief Don Challis talked with The Flat Hat about the security measures that were put in place for the Queen’s visit, which included a strong Secret Service presence.
p. He said the State Police and British Police were also involved, and the campus police at the University of Richmond, George Washington University and Regents University sent officers to help out.
p. All spectators had to pass through magnetometers, which were put in place in several spots around the courtyard.
p. “It’s been a couple-weeks-long process, that’s for sure,” Challis said. “There are so many details that folks don’t think about that have to happen. There are so many what-ifs and contingency plans.”
p. Overall, Challis said it was a success.
p. “I’m very proud of everybody who worked on this — it was a team effort,” he said, adding that big-name people who require extra security often visit the College. “We’re not totally new at this game.”