On Sunday morning I was a faculty marshal at Freshman Convocation. I am totally smitten with academic tradition and rarely miss an opportunity to wear my cap and gown, but more importantly reflect on what we ought to be doing at an university. These ceremonies help me remain focused on students and the remarkable experience that a college education ought to be.
Our job is quite simple. The doors of the arena open at 9:30. We occupy assigned positions, welcoming students, family and friends, working mostly on separating the students–who sit on the floor of the arena and in the first few rows–from family–who sit anywhere else. At 10:15 we reassemble in the basement. We are suppose to line up down a hallway, so that we can be counted and split into two groups that will enter from the two sides of the building, meeting in the center aisle and proceeding up to the stage. This seems so simple anyone could do it. But not the average faculty marshal. I was at the head of the line and Kent Guy, a colleague from history, behind me. That was it. We had a delightful conversation around the herding of cats. Eventually though they were herded.
The convocation follows the same pattern each year. Introductory words from University Marshal Ron Moore, a welcome from the ASUW president, remarks from Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs Ed Taylor, some focus on faculty from the Provost (Interim Provost Designate Doug Wadden played this role), and then a speaker. This year’s was our new President Michael Young.
During the processional, Young looked absolutely goofy for he marched in wearing his Harvard robes and a black cowboy hat. In time the reason became clear for during the course of his talk, which was in four parts, he wore four hats: the cowboy hat for his childhood ambition and the influence of his mother pointing him in a different direction de-emphasizing horses and doing more reading, his Harvard four-sided “throw cushion with a string” while discussing education as preparation for life, a hard hat for using that education as a basis for work and life, and finally a Husky baseball cap–we are all Huskies now. It was entertaining, I give it a 75/100. (Tom Daniel’s talk last year remains at the top of my list.)
The coming rain held off just long enough for me to walk back across campus.