At Convocation, Resiliency, Relationships and Awards for Excellence

The annual Fall Convocation, a long-standing college tradition, took place on a beautiful October day during the college's Family Weekend. At this year's gathering, faculty members and senior students donned academic regalia for the procession into Duke Family Performance Hall, which was followed by an award ceremony and an address by Byron McCrae, the college's new dean of students and vice president for student affairs.

McCrae cited music's power to unite individuals as he called on the Davidson College Chorale to sing "Unclouded Day" by Shawn Kirchner. Voices rang out from the highest balconies as Director of Choral Activities Chris Gilliam conducted from the catwalk.

At the heart of McCrae's speech lay the close relationships within a small, residential, liberal arts college. He put the observation in terms of resilience, quoting a student: "It looks like an individual is being resilient, but almost always, a community is bringing them up."

McCrae ended his remarks with the poem "Sol Food" by Idris Goodwin.

The installation of Grace Burford as associate chaplain for Buddhist and interfaith programs followed the presentation of faculty and student awards.

"In its Statement of Purpose, the college affirms that, as an institution of higher education with roots in the Presbyterian/Reformed Tradition, Davidson ‘welcomes students, faculty and staff from a variety of nationalities, ethnic groups, and traditions,'" said President Carol E. Quillen. "Today, we take another step in embodying this commitment."

Quillen called the new position, made possible thanks to the generosity of a member of the Class of 1968, a milestone in the life of Davidson College, since Burford is the first Buddhist on the chaplaincy staff.

"We celebrate that Grace is offering her gifts, training and insight as a Buddhist clergyperson, including her long practice of meditation and teaching of the Dharma, in service to our entire community and the wider world," said Quillen.

College Chaplain Rob Spach led the installation ceremony.

Goodwin-Exxon Awards

Goodwin Exxon Awards went to Cynthia Rodriguez '20, Victor-Alan Weeks '19 and Karis Kathleen Stucker '18. Established by Henry S. Goodwin of the Class of 1930 and funded in part by the Exxon Foundation, these awards go annually to sophomores, juniors and seniors who exemplify the highest standards of character, good sportsmanship, friendliness and consideration for others.

Rodriguez is an executive board member for OLAS, the Organization of Latino American Students, and for the QuestScholars Network; a mentor for STRIDE (Students Together Reaching for Individual Development and Education); and a Bonner Scholar who serves as a volunteer coordinator and translator at the Ada Jenkins Center. Weeks has been involved in the FreeWord slam poetry student organization and a hip hop trio he cofounded with two other Davidson students, and has created a reading curriculum for middle schoolers at the Ada Jenkins Center. He was lauded by one nominator as "probably the most honest, friendliest and most genuine student on campus." Stucker is a tutor at Davidson Elementary, a leader in Campus Outreach and an intern for Circle de Luz, a nonprofit organization that empowers young Latinas in Charlotte.

Alumni Association Award

Presented annually to the sophomore or sophomores who attained the highest academic average during the initial year of study at Davidson, the Alumni Association Awards this year went to Anna Dolder '20, of Atlanta, Georgia, Anna Gilbert '20, of Greensboro, North Carolina, Catherine Johnson '20 of Orlando, Florida, Eleanor Kincaid '20, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Lydia Soifer '20, of Saint Louis, Missouri.

Endowed Professorships

Gayle Kaufman was named the new Nancy and Erwin Maddrey Professor of Sociology. The chair was established in 1993 by trustee E. Erwin Maddrey III '63 and his wife Nancy Burgess Maddrey, to support excellence in teaching and scholarship. Dean of Faculty Wendy Raymond cited Kaufman's excellence and innovation in teaching and in mentoring students and pre-tenure faculty members, her departmental leadership and program building, her international collaborations and work as a Fulbright scholar, and her award-winning writing on gender roles, fatherhood and parental support policies. Kaufman is author of "Superdads: How Fathers Balance Work and Family in the 21st Century."

Kristi Multhaup was named the new Vail Professor of Psychology. The Vail Professorship was established in 1977 in honor of James D. Vail III and his family. Raymond cited Multhaup's dedicated mentoring of thesis and research students, her enthusiasm for collaborative work that expands interdisciplinary learning, and her dedication to faculty community within and across departments. Raymond noted that external grants from multiple sources fund Multhaup's research in cognitive psychology, with a focus on memory and aging.

Boswell Family Faculty Fellowship

Professor and Chair of Biology Barbara Lom received the Boswell Family Faculty Fellowship. Established by Tom and Cheryl Boswell to honor the exceptional education their sons experienced at Davidson, Boswell Fellowships provide salary, travel and research funding for one or two faculty members each year to extend a sabbatical to a full year.

During her sabbatical, Lom will return to the role of student in order to bring new capacities to her research on how vertebrate nervous systems develop. In addition, she will design a new Justice, Equality and Community course within the biology curriculum.

Thomas Jefferson Award

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology Rebecca Ruhlen won the Thomas Jefferson Award, presented annually through the work of a committee composed of students, faculty members and alumni to a faculty member who by "personal influence, teaching, writing and scholarship" promotes the high ideals and accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson. The overriding outstanding quality for this award is that of having given of self, "generously and well beyond the call of duty."

Ruhlen recently offered an independent study course that brought a series of teach-ins to the middle of the Brown Atrium in the student union, transforming the atrium with music, poetry, lectures, panels, community discussions and talkbacks. This semester, she is collaborating with colleagues across disciplines to bring the campus into substantive civil discourse through the "Challenge the Policy" discussion series. Beyond campus, Ruhlen has for many years selflessly served the community as an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant.

Enjoy more photos from Convocation in our Facebook album.

John Syme



  • October 24, 2017