By Cassandra Sottile
Elm Staff Writer
On Sept. 7, the Washington College community came together for the annual fall Convocation.
The event commenced with WACappella singing the national anthem, and after, President Kurt Landgraf and Student Government Association President Melat Kiros, senior, welcomed the audience.
“The impact of our campus is felt wherever it is needed. We are a campus where students are encouraged to explore and push boundaries. We are a community where students receive a world class education, and the alumni who are on stage with me who were guided and inspired by the College are a testament to that education,” President Landgraf said.
Arian Ravanbakhsh, chair of the Alumni Board, presented Minty Abraham Wade, Class of 2004, and Brenna Schneider, Class of 2006, with the Alumni Horizon Ribbon Award, which recognizes alumni of the past 15 years who have exemplified leadership and scholarship.
Schneider, CEO of 99Degrees Custom, founded a company that is committed to creating employment in struggling post-industrial cities, and has worked with brands such as New Balance and Under Armour.
Wade, who completed her Senior Capstone Experience on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda and South Africa, has been shaping foreign policy that alleviates human suffering through her work as an advisor for USAID missions.
“Both of these young women represent the heart and soul of WC. They were compelled to change the world in their own way,” President Landgraf said.
Ann Horner, co-vice chair of the Board of Visitors and Governors, said, “The task of any college should be to create cultures where all individuals can thrive. If they cannot thrive, then we ought to look at the organization itself and leadership. These alumni certainly thrived at the College.”
Julie Markin, secretary-historian of Phi Beta Kappa, presented the First Year Awards for Excellence in Liberal Learning to more than 10 students who just began their second year at the College.
Provost and Dean of the College Patrice DiQuinzio presented several more academic honors, including the First Year Scholarship medal, the Visitors and Governors medal, and the Interfraternity Panhellenic Council Awards.
Dr. James Hall, associate professor of English and director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House, received the Alumni Association’s Award for Distinguished Teaching.
“Dr. Hall radiates kindness — he has a strong social conscience and moral compass that points to a brighter future,” President Landgraf said.
As director of the Literary House, Dr. Hall helps young writers find their voices. After reading a portion of “At Luca Signorelli’s Resurrection of the Body,” Dr. Hall said, “There is a belief that carrying an identity can provide a satisfying life. But identity will never be fixed, it is always becoming something else, and that may be part of its joy. It reminds me that there is only a thin difference between poetry and teaching — both are minds into another person’s experience.”
Among the student and alumni honorees at the event was Arne Sorensen, CEO of Marriott International, who was presented with an honorary degree.
“Not only does Sorensen stand up and speak out for his beliefs for positive change, but he honors those epitomized ideals that are cherished and held dear by the WC community. Fear of backlash or consequence has not stopped him,” President Landgraf said.
Sorensen has been on the executive staff of Marriott International, the largest hotel company in the world, since 1996. Under his leadership, Marriott International has 17 sustainable development goals to fight inequality, injustice, and poverty.
Sorensen said, “We live in a world in which the pace of change is so fast it requires continuous learning to keep up. We can have disagreements over beliefs. We can have disagreement and a conversation over preserving historical statues. But it must be a conversation. The events in Charlottesville were racism, pure and simple. We have a duty to learn the facts, understand an approach, be curious and advocate our own point of view, but never at the expense of others.”
Convocation closed with the traditional singing of the alma mater, led by WACappella.