Under a hot September sun, a Longwood tradition began a new chapter.
Convocation, an annual rite at Longwood, marks the formal beginning of the academic year and serves as a showcase for intricate displays on graduation caps—some of which reach alarmingly precarious heights.
The ceremony was held outside for the first time in Longwood’s history, and, with a high reaching 90 degrees, more than a few jokes circulated the black-robed crowd, some of them making their way to the stage. "I don’t know about you," said Board of Visitors Rector Colleen McCrink Margiloff ’97, "but right now I’m ready to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge all over again!"
President W. Taylor Reveley IV—noting that seniors were beginning their final year at Longwood on one end of Lancaster mall and that they would conclude their collegiate careers on the opposite end of the mall at commencement in May—called the outdoor ceremony a new twist on an old tradition.
The day is a bittersweet beginning for the senior class: Only 240 short days separate them from graduation. And while those who addressed the group got the ball rolling on the build-up of excitement that would culminate in May with commencement, they also urged students to reflect on their time at Longwood thus far. Beloved professor Dr. Jim Jordan gave the keynote speech, which he based on answers he had previously solicited from students to the question, "What is the most important thing that has happened to you at Longwood?"
"You have taught me so much, but there is a great sadness in this learning—a sadness in being a teacher. I have felt this every school year," said Jordan, who recently was awarded the highest honor the Board of Visitors can bestow upon a faculty member. "I picture myself as an artist—helping you to create yourself. But my masterpieces, you, are not in marble or wood or metal. My masterpieces, you, exist in only the brightest fleeting moment in our little time together here at Longwood—or, possibly, I hope, the link that binds us together may last forever in our memories."
Margiloff, speaking to students, urged them to take advantage of all Longwood offers in their final year on campus: develop relationships with professors, take advantage of the meal plan and, most importantly, take mental snapshots of your final year on campus and hold onto them dearly. "I remember a sunny day during my senior year on Wheeler Mall with a friend," said Margiloff. "I looked at her and said, ‘It will never get better than this.’ Hold onto those memories."
Jordan echoed the sentiment, telling students Longwood will always remain a part of them, and they a part of Longwood. "Longwood goes on into the future and into the world in ways that we cannot imagine," he said. "You have now become a part of the community of scholars, resident at this place for 175 years, and who down the long trail of the ages will echo Longwood’s name."
Following tradition, senior class president Paige Rollins was capped on stage by Longwood’s top academic officer. Dr. Ken Perkins, provost and vice president for academic affairs, He hoisted the unwieldy cap onto Rollins’ head with help from Rollins’ "little sister," Erika Bauer. The rest of the seniors were then capped by their "little sisters" or "little brothers" sitting behind them—the outrageously decorated mortarboards reflecting the senior’s major, personality quirks or interest.
In another twist to the ceremony, Reveley pulled out a surprise cap for Jordan, who was as elated as the rest of the crowd. Featuring a mock-up of the Rotunda and bone streamers cascading off the sides, the cap was a creative punctuation mark to the tradition.
In addition, six faculty awards are given at Convocation. The recipients were:
- Maria Bristow Starke Faculty Excellence Award:
Dr. Wade Edwards, professor of French and chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages
- Maude Glenn Raiford Teaching Award:
Dr. Melissa Rhoten, professor of chemistry and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics
- Maude Glenn Raiford Junior Faculty Teaching Award:
Dr. Heather Lettner-Rust, assistant professor of English
- Provost’s Scholarship Award:
Dr. Sarah Porter, associate professor of chemistry
- William David Stuart Leadership and Service Award:
Dr. John Miller, assistant professor of English
- Junior Faculty Award:
Dr. Amorette Barber, assistant professor of biology