One of the highlights of the college's annual Family Weekend was Fall Convocation. Senior class students and faculty members donned academic regalia and marched into Duke Family Performance Hall for presentations of several awards, and a keynote address by Board of Trustees member Shannon McFayden '82.
Following greetings to members of the class from Sam Littlejohn '15, class president, and introductions from President Carol Quillen, McFayden addressed seniors with both lighthearted and heartfelt "Pieces of Inspiring Advice for Your Senior Year."
Her offerings included practical items such as "Learn how to cook" and "Learn the difference between an HMO and a PPO." She also advised seniors to use their seven remaining months on campus to soak up the beauty of the place, get to know peers they've only known in passing and "reflect for just one moment on how incredible it has been to spend four years in this, the Davidson Bubble, where we are surrounded by people who are scary smart, deeply committed to making the world a better place and bound by an ethic of honor that the real world will never quite comprehend." See below for McFayden's complete remarks.
The remainder of the program was devoted to awards presentation.
Alumni Association President Lisa Combs '90 presented the Alumni Award for highest grade point average in the first year of study to four sophomores – Hannah Fuller, Vincent Hickl, Kathryn Laurence and Annalee Tutterow.
Vice President for Student Life Tom Shandley presented Goodwin-Exxon Awards for high standards of character, good sportsmanship and consideration of others to Dustin Atchley '17, Alec Rotunda '16 and Blair Carpenter '15.
Atchley's citation noted, "His quirky, ever-present sense of humor draws people in as he works diligently as the program coordinator for the Civic Engagement Council, as the lead planner for Poverty Awareness Week and as a volunteer with cooking classes at the Ada Jenkins Community Center."
Shandley noted that Rotunda organized a student-led program called "Dinners at Davidson" to promote discussions across differences, and is organizing a group of men to combat sexual assault. He also is a hall counselor, member of the Honor Council and a manager of the soccer team.
Carpenter has been active as a community organizer, serving as a co-president of the "Be the Match" bone marrow registry drive. She also volunteers at a local Hospice facility, tutors and mentors children from impoverished circumstances, and advocates on their behalf with the local school system.
Wendy Raymond, vice president for academic affairs, presented awards and recognition to four members of the faculty:
Laurie Heyer, professor and chair of the mathematics and computer science program, was named to the Kimbrough Endowed Professorship. She was cited as excelling in undergraduate teaching, with a record of superior professional achievement that exemplifies the moral and intellectual values of the college.
She has co-authored dozens of peer-reviewed research articles, online publications, essays, book chapters and software, as well as three textbooks. She also has obtained National Science Foundation grants that have offered significant undergraduate research opportunities to students at Davidson and other institutions.
Boswell Family Fellowships, which extend the recipients' paid sabbatical from one semester to two, were awarded to Associate Professor and Chair of Classics Keyne Cheshire, and Associate Professor and Chair of Sociology Gerardo Marti. Marti has written four books while at Davidson and currently directs a collaborative grant from the Lilly Endowment that brings together researchers from multiple institutions to study the contemporary Latino Protestant church across the United States.
Cheshire is a past recipient of the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award and author of many scholarly publications. He will spend his sabbatical year translating part of Homer's Iliad into its intended oral form, using influences of spoken word and rap.
The Thomas Jefferson Award was presented to Professor of Political Science Shelley Rigger. She was cited as a teacher "who inspires students within her disciplines, in Writing 101 courses, and through her contributions to establishing and teaching in the comparative humanities program." She has published three books and numerous articles, as well as op-ed pieces in national and international news outlets, on the politics of Taiwan.
When I was asked if I was available and willing to speak to you today, the easy answer was about my availability. That was a yes. The tougher question for me was my willingness. While I wanted to be helpful to Davidson, I didn't know what I could possibly say to you to meet the stated objective of being inspiring by giving you advice and words of wisdom.
So I decided to go to an expert on "how to inspire a Davidson Senior at Convocation"...my daughter, Tyler, who sat where you are sitting just one year ago.
Her answer was exactly as I feared...she said "Well, Mom, you could tell them to get outside their comfort zone this year, make the most out of their senior year, find their passion and build a career out of that, blah blah blah....but honestly, they've heard that a million times and they just don't want to hear it again."
Discouraged, I hung up the phone, and was about to call the President's office and tell them no, when a notification popped up on my phone that Tyler had tagged me in a Tweet. Intrigued, and looking for reasons to delay calling Dr. Quillen to tell her no, I opened it, and found this tweet that Tyler had re-tweeted from BuzzFeed, and aimed at me:
"46 Questions Every Twentysomething Still Asks Their Mom. @ShaDub (that's me) I'm 26/46"
Just as I was reading those 46 things, trying to figure out which 26 she had asked me in the last year, she texted me and said "Mom, if you really want to help the seniors, THESE are the kinds of things you should tell them, so they won't have to call their moms next year."
So, with thanks to BuzzFeed, Twitter and Tyler, here we go:
You have 7 months left in this amazing place. I can assure you that Davidson grads around the world would love to come back here and have a do-over of our Senior Years. And what would we do differently if we could?
First, when we leave here today....we would lift our heads up from our phones for just one minute – one FULL minute – and we would look up at the beauty of the architecture of Chambers, and the Library and Eu and Phi Halls. We would look around at the depth of rich history that rests in each majestic oak, and we would look down at each weather-hewn brick beneath our feet...and see, really see, the beauty and history that has cradled us from the moment we stepped foot on this campus....
And, then, sometime this weekend, we would catch the eye of someone in our class that we don't know...someone who isn't in our eating house or fraternity, or on our team, or on our hall, or in our major....and we would walk over and say "hey, can you believe we've been here for 3 years and we haven't met yet" and we would relish getting to know at least one more smart, quirky Davidson colleague who would become another lifelong friend....
And, in the next week – the last week to sign up for spring classes.....we would search WebTree to find our Senior Spring classes, and for the first time, we would NOT use as our criteria our major requirements or preparation for getting a job or getting into med school, or avoiding an 8 AM class, or even which classes we think could best boost our GPA. Instead our criteria would be this: what classes will introduce us to a part of the world or a discipline that we may never have the opportunity to study again, and what brilliant and engaging professors who are thought-leaders in their fields will expand our thinking and broaden our views...
And then, over Thanksgiving break we would sit down with the campus calendar and circle at least 2 events every month for the rest of the academic year – things we've never seen or participated in during our first 3 years, because NOW we know that these opportunities are far too rare in the real world and we kick ourselves for not taking advantage of what we had here.
And finally, a few short months from now when we would be back in these caps and gowns, we would sit here and reflect for just one moment on how incredible it has been to spend four years in this, the Davidson Bubble, where we are surrounded by people who are scary smart, deeply committed to making the world a better place, and bound by an ethic of honor that the real world will never quite comprehend.
So when you walk across that stage in 7 short months and you shake President Quillen's hand and grab onto that hard-earned Davidson diploma, I want you to bid farewell to your college career, knowing that you are taking with you experiences, memories relationships and a profoundly meaningful Liberal Arts education that will forever change the trajectory of your life...just as they have for those of us who walked before you.
Because THIS, my final thought, is what I now KNOW to be true:
You will leave Davidson.
But Davidson will NEVER leave you.
Congratulations Class of '15.