By Emily Harris
Friday, Feb. 20 marked the celebration of George Washington’s Birthday Convocation in Decker Theatre. Just as in years past, convocation brings the Washington College community together to support the successes of individuals that excel and further the mission of the College.
A number of faculty, staff, students, and guests are recognized each year at spring convocation, including the recipients of honorary degrees that are conferred and the candidates for Phi Beta Kappa Theta of Maryland. Following the academic procession led by John Toll Professor of Psychology George Spillich, the invocation was given by the Chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department Dr. Austin Lobo.
Interim President Jay Griswold named Nick Bunker, Eric Nelson, Richard S. Dunn, and Francois Furstenberg as the four finalists for the 2015 George Washington Book Prize. These authors’ works are available in the WC bookstore.
Faculty and staff were recognized by Provost and Dean of the College Emily Chamlee-Wright for years of service, and Griswold followed with the President’s Distinguished Service Awards. Adrian “AJ” Blake was the first of the recipients to accept his award, not before offering a trademark fist bump to faculty and students as he approached the stage. Dr. Martin Connaughton, associate professor of biology, and Dr. Michele Volansky, chair of the Drama Department, were recognized for their leadership of the Middle States evaluation of the College. Debra Bergen of the Business Office and head coach of the swim team Kim Lessard were also recognized by Griswold as recipients of the award.
Norris W. Commodore, recipient of the Alumni Service Award, has been a member of the Board of Visitors and Governors at WC since 1999 and was described as “instrumental in encouraging prospective students to apply to WC” by Chair of the Alumni Board Heather Spurrier Culp. “In 2012 ‘Fortune’ magazine ranked IBM top for cultivating great leaders and Norris has unwaveringly followed that track.”
Dr. Philip Walsh invited the candidates for Phi Beta Kappa Theta of Maryland to the stage after the recipients of the Alumni Service Award and the President’s Medal were announced. 35 WC seniors were invited to join Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest academic honor society in the country.
Honorary Doctorate of Laws were awarded to both Congressman John Delaney and former Prime Minister of Ireland Patrick Bartholomew “Bertie” Ahern.
In Griswold’s introduction of Delaney, he said Delaney is “working to cross party lines to pave the way out of the mire… By applying innovative thinking from his business success to his new world of legislative challenges, he is working to put America on the road to renewed long term prosperity.”
After accepting his award, congratulated the students who had been recognized for their academic achievements and encouraged all WC students to make a positive change in the world with their liberal arts education. “They can do that in public policy by getting us back to what you learn here which is that ideas really matter, and that will bring us together,” he said.
Former President of WC Mitchell Reiss acknowledged Ahern’s accomplished career in his introduction of the former prime minister. Ahern was instrumental in establishing a stable government and overcoming centuries of violence to bring peace to Ireland. “The challenge never deterred or demoralized Bertie,” said Reiss. “[His] extraordinary skills as a politician and negotiator were evidenced early in his career.”
The Convocation festivities were closed with a new arrangement of the alma mater performed by the WC Chamber Singers and WACapella. A reception was held in the Underwood Lobby immediately following Convocation, featuring music by the WC Jazz Ensemble. Once again, the College administration along with students and faculty created a supportive atmosphere as the WC community celebrated another year of accomplishments and the birthday of the founding father who gave his name to the College at the Chester.