U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) addressed the College of William and Mary community Saturday at the Charter Day ceremony. His speech emphasized not only the College’s rich history, but also its continued importance in the nation, especially in light of the current economic downturn.
“As someone who has spent much of my career as a writer and writing about and promoting the study of American history, I applaud you for staying so closely connected to the past,” Webb said at the annual ceremony in Phi Beta Kappa Hall. “The early commitment to education by the colonists who founded this institution has been furthered, in the grandest tradition of true intellectual and philosophical growth, at a pace that has kept it at the very forefront of the evolution of our country itself.”
In addition to his praise of the College, Webb emphasized the gravity of the current economic climate, citing the expanding income gap as the root of the problem and its reversal as paramount to eventual financial stability.
“The middle class of this country, our historic backbone, our best hope for a strong future, has been steadily losing its place at the table,” Webb said.
The senior senator from Virginia later stressed the role the College would play in ending this crisis.
“As a public institution, formed in order to benefit what the British crown in your charter called its ‘well-beloved and trusty subjects,’ William and Mary is certainly well-positioned to play a leading role in the important work of restoring economic fairness and opportunity in our country,” he said.
Webb has served in the Senate since 2007, during which time he most notably spearheaded the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, greatly expanding the benefits granted to those in the armed services within the original G.I. Bill, instituted in 1944.
At the ceremony, Webb was awarded anhonorary doctorate of public service from the College. Others to receive honorary doctorates included Muscarelle Museum founder Gene Lowry, and current director of the Museum of Modern Art, who received an honorary doctorate of arts and John Hope Franklin, a distinguished African American historian, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters while in absentia.
Additionally, outstanding faculty, students and alumni were honored at the ceremony. The Thomas Jefferson award was presented to French professor and Board of Visitors faculty representative Katherine Kulick. Geology professor Rowan Lockwood received the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award.
Student honorees included Kelly Hallinger ’09 who was awarded the TJPNP for her work with the biology department. Devin Oller ’09 was presented with the James Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership. He, among other achievements, led service trips to Africa and served as the vice president of the Health Outreach Peer Education program.
Alumni Medallions were presented to Sarah Kemp Brady ’64, Lynn Malzer Dillon ’75, Henry H. George ’65, Harrison R. Tyler ’49 and Sunshine Trumbo Williams ’44 for their demonstration of the College’s ideals of leadership, service and charity.