‘Founding Is an Ongoing Process’

New students are welcomed into the Kenyon community in a Founders’ Day ceremony celebrating those who have formed the College’s strong foundation.

By David Hoyt '14

Photo by Prince Adablah '23

Kenyon’s newest students started a picture-perfect fall morning in Rosse Hall, raising their right hands to swear the Matriculation Oath at the annual Founders’ Day convocation, then ended it gathered around a newly-planted sawtooth oak on Samuel Mather Lawn — humorously named Rutherford Tree Hayes, after Rutherford B. Hayes Class of 1842 — that will serve as the Class of 2026’s inaugural gift to the College. 

In addition to the Matriculation Oath, the Founders’ Day ceremony included several other important traditions that serve to celebrate the unbroken line of people — and especially those who have died within the past year — who have formed the College’s strong foundation, all the way from Bishop Philander Chase and his benefactors; to professors, students and alumni of the distant and recent past; to the women who brought coeducation to Kenyon in 1969; to current alumni; to all the members of the present-day administration, faculty, staff and student body.

Member of the Board of Trustees Densil Porteous ’02 presented Bishop Philander Chase Medals for Distinguished Service to three faculty members who this year celebrate 25 years of teaching at the College: Acting President  and Professor of History Jeffrey Bowman, Professor Mathematics Judy Holdener, and Jonathan Tazewell ’84, the Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama and Film.

Porteous also presented Middle Path Medals to two individuals who have made significant contributions to the Kenyon, Gambier or Knox County communities through volunteer or job-related activities: Carmen King, fine arts and humanities librarian who retired in 2017 after 28 years of service, and who was known for her commitment to Hispanic heritage programming on campus; and Julie Miller, the recently retired Knox County Health Commissioner who was a steadfast leader and critical partner to Kenyon throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Faculty Advising Award honors a faculty member who has shown commitment and dedication to academic advising for Kenyon students. The 2022 winner of the Faculty Advising Award was announced to be Professor of Chemistry John Hofferberth, who was praised as “a genuinely kind and caring person who makes his advisees feel safe and welcome in the classroom, the department and at Kenyon in general.”

Traditionally, a short address is also given by a member of the faculty relating to an aspect of the College’s history or traditions that may be unfamiliar to the community. This year, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Laurie Finke delivered an address titled “Palimpsests,” which is a word meaning “something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.” While often used in referenced to texts and manuscripts, Finke’s chosen palimpsest was the pair of large and ornate rooms in Ascension Hall known as Philomathesian and Nu Pi Kappa, which form a connection “through great distances of both time and space” to the two dueling literary societies that formed a central part of college life during much of the 19th century.

Finke also noted that Kenyon rituals throughout the years have tended to include music alongside “fancy dress, symbolic objects, oaths and speeches,” and as such, Professor of Music Benjamin “Doc” Locke led the Chambers Singers in two selections: “Cantate Domino,” by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, and the beloved traditional Kenyon song “Kokosing Farewell.” 

Following the ceremony, newly matriculated students had the opportunity to sign the College’s historic Matriculation Book, normally held within Chalmers Library’s Special Collections and Archives and today on display in the light-filled Carver Reading Room. The book, now in its third volume, contains the signatures of esteemed alumni like President Hayes, trailblazing alumnus and athletic center-namesake William E. Lowry ’56 H’99, and Oscar-winning actors Paul Newman ’49 H’61 and Allison Janney ’82 H’00. A blank page is reserved at the end of each class’s section within the Matriculation Book for students and alumni who may have missed out on the chance to sign with the rest of their peers.

Find more photos from the event here

Laurie Finke delivers speech in Rosse Hall

Professor Laurie A. Finke delivers the annual Faculty Address at Kenyon’s Founders’ Day Convocation.