Convocation Honors Washington Biographer

By Allison Schoenauer
Elm Staff Writer

2005 George Washington Book Prize winner Ron Chernow was awarded an honorary doctorate at this year’s Washington’s Birthday Convocation. - Photo courtesy of Ashley Carol-Fingerhut

Birthday Ball was not the only celebration of George’s big day this weekend.

On Friday, Feb. 24, Washington College held its annual George Washington’s Birthday Convocation.  The event is a College-wide celebration of patron George Washington and current faculty, alumni, and students whose actions within the College and in the community at large have been helpful in furthering the College’s influence.
Director of Humanities Program and English Professor Richard Gillin was Marshal for the beginning ceremonial procession into Decker Theater and President Mitchell Reiss hosted the Convocation.

President Reiss started the ceremony by acknowledging the actions of basketball coach Rob Nugent.during a recent game with Gettysburg College.  A clip from NPR, written and read by alumnus Frank DeFord, was played that told the story of how Nugent, called a time-out and told his players to foul Weisman. This gave Weisman a guard in the final seconds of the game. The move was significant because although Weisman is a captain, he had never scored a single point. During his freshman year, Weisman was in a car accident which left him partially paralyzed. He psent the next four years in physical therapy. Weisman was meant to only play a few miutes of his Senior Day Game, but with the help of Coach Nugent, Weisman scored his first and only college goal.

Among those honored at Convocation were author and Washington biographer Ron Chernow, whose most recent book, “Washington: A Life” earned him the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in biography.  Chernow’s association with WC started in 2005, when Chernow won the inaugural George Washington Book Prize for his biography of Alexander Hamilton.  For speaking, Chernow was presented an honorary Doctorate of Letters from WC.  During his speech, Chernow focused on the College’s relationship with the very private Washington.

“Washington was very careful with allowing organizations to use his name,” Chernow said.  “By allowing Washington College to use his name, it showed how important the institution was to him, and how he supported its cause and philosophy.”

Also announced at the Convocation were the three finalists in the C.V. Starr Center’s George Washington Book Prize, one of the largest literary awards given to a historian whose published work has attracted a wide audience of readers.  This year’s finalists are John Fea’s “Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?,” Benjamin H. Irvin’s “Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty,” and Maya Jasanoff’s “Liberty’s Exiles.”  The winner will be announced at Mt. Vernon on June 4.

President Reiss and Professor Michele Volansky, standing in for the absent Dr. John Taylor, recognized the commitment of several faculty members for their length of service to the College community.  Included was drama professor Timothy Maloney, whose tenure at Wc is a record-breaking 45 years.

This year’s Distinguished Service Awards were awarded to four College faculty and staff members for their distinguished and exemplary service.  Awarded were Creative Services Director Diane Landskroener and Communications Director Marcia Landskroener, who, together, have helped publish Washington College Magazine since its inception; Health Services’ sole registered nurse Carol Thornton, who organizes several public health initiatives on campus; and Professor Terry Scout, the founder of the College’s Business Management program.

Alumnus Kevin O’Keefe 1974 was the recipient of the Alumni Service Award.  The Alumni Service Award is given each year to an alumnus who has given outstanding and continued support to the College.  As the president of the Baltimore branch of international public relations firm Weber Shandwick, O’Keefe has used his public relations savvy to advance the College’s image in the outside world.

Molly Judge, a local special education teacher and one of the founders of the Radcliffe Creek School and a board member of the Radcliffe Creek School’s Horizons program, was given the President’s Medal for her contributions to the Chestertown community.

English Professor and Phi Beta Kappa advisor Sean Meehan welcomed thirty-four new students into the ranks of the prestigious honor society.

The Convocation ended with a rousing rendition of “Old Washington” by WACapella, followed shortly after by Professor Gillin leading the recessional out of Decker Theater and into the reception in Underwood Lobby.

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