April 23, 2020
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Although it is only by a quirk of the calendar that Kenyon’s Founders’ Day ceremony fell this year on Halloween, that coincidence lent special meaning to the occasion as faculty, staff and students gathered in Rosse Hall to commemorate the unbroken line of those who have formed the Kenyon community, from those present at the College’s founding in 1824 to the newest Class of 2023. On a holiday devoted to remembrance of the dead, the newest residents of Gambier Hill were reminded of how the dedication and effort of those who came before still animate the spirit of Kenyon in the 21st century.
“Let us now invoke the memory of the famous and the humble who have made a college in this place,” said Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama Jonathan Tazewell ’84 P’15, reciting the Founders’ Memorial. “Who have bequeathed to us its heritage and traditions, and who have left to us the example of their lives.”
Adele Davidson ’75, the Charles P. McIlvaine Professor of English and the first Kenyon alumna to earn tenure in Kenyon’s English department, presented an address titled “Philander and a Half,” illuminating the life of Kenyon’s founder — and that of his wife, Sophia, who was instrumental in the College’s early success — with insights gleaned from a half dozen of Chase’s letters that Davidson recently purchased and intends to donate to the College. “Philander bequeathed to us a frontier college, a pioneering spirit, an inclusive community set apart among the loveliest of autumn leaves,” Davidson said.
Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 led new students in the Matriculation Oath, during which matriculants are formally sworn into the Kenyon community. The oath, which was implemented in 1841 by Kenyon’s third president, David Bates Douglass, and revised just last year, asks new students to uphold shared values of mutual respect, inclusive citizenship, spirited inquiry and intellectual integrity.
Following the Rite of Matriculation and the presentation of newly elected members of the Board of Trustees, several categories of awards were presented.
Each year, as a mark of gratitude and respect, faculty celebrating 25 years of teaching at Kenyon are awarded with Bishop Philander Chase Medals for Distinguished Service. Faculty recognized this year include Professor of Art History Sarah Blick, Professor of Political Science Pamela Camerra-Rowe, Professor of English Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky and Associate Professor of Neuroscience Andrew Niemiec.
Middle Path Medals, an award established in 2014 to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the Kenyon, Gambier, or Knox County communities, were awarded to Susan Spaid, retired director of cultural events and a former member of the Village of Gambier’s planning and zoning commission, and S. Joyce Klein P’90,’93,’99. Klein, a Gambier resident since 1968 who died earlier this year, helped create Gambier’s much-loved traditions of the annual craft sale and Friday Cafe, operating the weekly luncheon for over four decades. Her posthumous award was accepted by her son, Michael Klein ’99.
Provost Joseph Klesner then presented the Faculty Advising Award, established in 2015 to recognize and reward the commitment, dedication and energy that faculty devote to academic advising. This year’s award was presented to Associate Professor of English Deborah Laycock, honored for her commitment to students both inside and outside the classroom since coming to Kenyon in 1991. “She is my prime example for the close relationships that students create with their teachers” at Kenyon, wrote a student who nominated Laycock for the honor. Klesner then introduced 13 students newly elected to the Beta of Ohio chapter of the academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa.
Following the ceremony, members of First-Year Council traditionally present the College with the gift of a newly planted sugar maple tree located along Middle Path. However, due to inclement weather, the planting of this year’s tree was postponed and rescheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 5.
In keeping with a tradition started with the Class of 1841, newly matriculated students were invited to sign the Matriculation Book, housed in Kenyon’s Greenslade Special Collections and Archives. The book, now in its third volume, contains nearly 25,000 signatures, including alumni such as U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, Class of 1842, Oscar-winning actress Allison Janney ’82 H’00 and best-selling author John Green ’00 H’16.
See the archived video of the live-streamed Founders’ Day ceremony.