It wasn’t William & Mary’s first Opening Convocation ceremony, but firsts were front and center at the Aug. 29 event in the Wren Yard.
The keynote speaker, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy ’00 (D-Fla.), was the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress. Katherine A. Rowe, W&M’s first woman president, welcomed first-year students to campus while being welcomed herself by the university community. And the event marked the beginning of W&M’s 100thanniversary of coeducation celebration, a century after its first women students began classes in 1918.
“I stand here, the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, sharing a stage with the first woman chosen to lead this great university,” said Murphy. “I look out at all of you, a sea of faces composed of young men and women of every race and creed. And I feel motivated by our past, inspired by our progress and hopeful for our future. Above all, I feel pride and joy.”
The annual event serves to welcome W&M’s new undergraduate and graduate students to campus and to mark the beginning of the academic year. This year’s event was abbreviated due to high temperatures, with the heat index for the day exceeding 100. Programs that transformed into fans and water stations posted around the perimeter offered some refreshment to ceremony participants, and the dinner following the event was moved from the Sunken Garden to dining facilities around campus.
Despite the heat, the university community showed up in droves to celebrate the occasion, including W&M alumnus Virginia Del. Monty Mason ’89 (D-1st) who presented Rowe with a resolution passed by the General Assembly to recognize W&M’s 100th anniversary of coeducation. In 1918, W&M admitted 24 women as students becoming the first coeducational state university in the commonwealth. The commemoration, which kicked off Wednesday, will feature a series of special events and programs throughout the 2018-2019 academic year, including an art exhibition now on display at the Sadler Center.
For more on the story visit W&M News.