Photo courtesy of Buck Butler
Marking one of the many esteemed Sewanee traditions, October 6 brought about the Order of the Gown’s (OG) induction of their newest group. This ceremony praised the academic excellence of students.
Being a member of the OG means different things for inductees. For Scott Lyman Ortkiese (C’20), being a part of the Order means continuing a strong family tradition that goes as far back as 1922. Orkiese has his great-great grandfather, great grandfather, great uncle, uncle, cousin, and sister’s initials and class years embroidered on his gown.
He felt a strong sense of personal obligation to be apart of the Order of the Gown. “Once I got up here and saw so many gowns, I realized how cool of a tradition it was. Also, all my family got it first semester of their sophomore year, so that was a good motivator,” said Orkiese.
For Jack Barganier (C’20), the possibility of getting gowned was an academic incentive. “Yeah, I definitely thought getting gowned my freshman year would be a really cool thing to do, and that was one of my top goals,” he explained.
Being a part of the Gown means that inductees get very helpful perks, such as priority class choice and priority housing. For some students, this by itself could be enough to work towards getting gowned. However, Charlie Grimes (C’20) feels that his gown is representative of hard work and determination.
“I don’t necessarily see them [the perks] as motivators, but rather rewards for working hard. Personally I’ve always felt an obligation to stay on top of my stuff,” said Grimes. “But the housing priority is big. You just get so much more access to high level dorms at the beginning of the game.”
During the ceremonial induction, students choose an impactful person in their life to gown them. President of the Order of the Gown Hadley Montgomery (C’18) recollected that “my dad, who graduated from the School of Letters in 2012, inducted me. Although there were many people who impacted my Sewanee experience, I felt like my dad’s influence on my life was very fitting for the occasion.”
Although Sewanee tradition encourages gownspeople to wear their gowns for class, the custom is not strictly enforced. Ellie Herron (C’20) thinks that she is going to take a different approach and said, “I’m probably not going to wear it to every class, but if I have a big exam, then yes. I’m a big believer in that if you dress well, you look good, you feel good, and you do good.”
Even though the physical gowns are one of the Order’s trademarks, they are actually a relatively new tradition. Despite being founded in 1873, the OG didn’t implement gowns until 1983.
Most inductees do feel honored in being members of the Order of the Gown, but just like any exclusive group, some feel that the Order isn’t indicative of academic ability. Elizabeth Chandler (C’20) says, “I feel like it’s such a prestigious accomplishment, but freshman year especially you have classes that are harder and easier, so I don’t think that it’s an accurate representation of how you do here. But it’s an honor regardless.”
For new inductees, all of the hard work is beginning to pay off. Being a part of the Order of the Gown certainly has new inductees excited about being part of an amazing Sewanee tradition.