By Gabby Rente
On Aug. 29, faulty, staff and students gathered in Decker Theatre for convocation. The professors were seated in risers, and the podium rested center stage bearing the name Washington College.
But this year’s convocation was different, celebrating the newly enrolled Class of 2023.
“You’re about to meet some of the people who will be your very best friends for the rest of your lives,” WC President Kurt Landgraf said to the incoming class.
Landgraf then introduced Vice President of Enrollment Management, Dr. Lorna J. Hunter, who presented the Class of 2023, listing backgrounds, hardships, and achievements.
“This entering group has shown interest in world events and taking action to affect change,” Hunter said. “So Class of 2023, may each of you find the superhero within, and make the decisions that matter — good ones.”
Following Hunter’s speech, Stephen T. Golding, class of 1972, chair on the Board of Visitors and Governors, and senior Nick Gottemoller, president of the Student Government Association, took turns in welcoming the new class to WC.
Chair of the Alumni Board, Patrick J. McMenamin, Jr. class of 1987, presented the Alumni Horizon Ribbon Award to Sean Rapelyea, class of 2008, for his work as a political strategist.
“The award is given to an alumnus or alumna who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, service, or scholarship in a particular area,” said McMenamin. “And his tremendous accomplishments over the last 10 years since graduation make Sean an excellent recipient of this year’s award.”
Rapelyea has worked on the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and has recently become the deputy chief of staff for external affairs for the governor of Illinois. During his time at WC, he was an active member of the Black Student Union, wrote for The Elm, and played varsity lacrosse while pursuing a major in English.
The Phi Beta Kappa First-Year Awards for Excellence in Liberal Learning and the First-Year Scholarship Medal were presented by President of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter at WC, Lab Instructor in Biology Suzanne Thuecks to 14 current sophomores.
Provost and Dean of the College, Dr. Patrice DiQuinzio presented several academic honors, such as the Alumni Medal, Visitors and Governors Medal, Interfraternity-Panhellenic Council Awards, Middendorf Scholars, and the Eleanor Taylor ‘44 and Francis Taylor Chemistry Prize.
“I’m really excited and grateful for what this school has been able to provide for me,” said senior Hannah Sauer, one of the four recipients of the Middendorf Scholars Award.
The highlight of the ceremony was the address given by Associate Professor of Spanish Dr. Cristina Casado Presa, who is also the outgoing director of the gender studies program and chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures. She is the recipient of the 2019 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching.
“Do not limit yourselves, do not just occupy a sitting class, do not just work for a grade,” Dr. Presa said. “Challenge yourselves to be a better version of yourselves every day, because the most valuable knowledge, the most enduring knowledge, is that which makes our surrounding environment a better place.”
After the academic recession, faculty and students gathered in the John L. and Nancy G. Underwood Lobby where Kate Van Name, class of 1991 gave a toast and presented the Class of 2023 gift, a pin adorned with the college’s seal.
Compared to past convocations, Sauer said, “I liked this one a lot. Everything everyone said was really nice. I teared up a few times.”
By the end of the festivities, freshman Valencia Poe said, “I felt like I knew more about the heart of the school.”