Crowds of people gathered outside All Saints’ Chapel minutes before 11 a.m. when the doors opened to let in the congregation for Convocation. Once inside, people lined up in chairs against the walls due to the large influx of families, friends, and colleagues of the students to be gowned. Sewanee students know the drill: organ melodies call in the academic procession and the congregation stands and sings. The choir sings “Ecce Quam Bonum,” beginning with, “behold how good and joyful a thing it is: brethren to dwell together in unity!”
Awards and prizes were given to 35 students and were announced by Provost John Swallow. A full list of awards can be viewed on the University website. Victoria Miglets (C’17), recipient of the Atkins-Rogers Textbook Award for History, expressed that she felt Convocation was “a great manifestation of Sewanee’s most unique tradition.”
In addition, honorary degrees were bestowed upon Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, received an honorary Doctor of Civil Law, the Rt. Rev. Rayford, received an honorary Doctor of Divinity, and the U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Wright, received an honorary Doctor or Letters. Sir Abed, founder of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), the world’s largest nonprofit organization that provides services to poverty stricken people in both Bangladesh and beyond, delivered an inspiring Founders’ Day address in which he emphasized the importance of providing tools for these individuals to gain control in their lives. He reflected on the effects of BRAC and related its values to Sewanee’s values, specifically calling upon the “life of value” Sewanee students aim to uphold.
Before announcing the new Gownsmen, Nate Foster, (C’15), President of the Order of Gownsmen, celebrated the history of the Order, but also emphasized the importance of understanding what the Order represents. He recalled four years prior when he signed the Honor Code and touched the same stone his grandfather had years ago, understanding for the first time the importance of Sewanee’s set of values. Because of the importance of these unique values, Foster urged all to “be proud to wear the gown.” Zack Loehle, (C’17), wore his gown almost every day this week after being inducted into the Order. When asked why, he explained, “you feel like you’re a part of a community.” Ben McKenzie, (C’17), was gowned by his brother, Sean McKenzie, (C’11). He jokingly expressed that receiving his brother’s gown “felt like getting my letter from Hogwarts.” Foster then read the names of all to be inducted into the Order, and Vice-Chancellor John McCardell formally admitted the students into the Order of Gownsmen. The full video of Convocation can be found on the University’s website, as well as photos from Founders’ Day and Family Weekend.