Digital George Washington’s Birthday Convocation honors “spirit of service”

By Erica Quinones

News Editor

Washington College reimagined its George Washington’s Birthday Convocation for the virtual semester, releasing the ceremony in five videos from Feb. 22 to Feb. 26.

Convocation began on Monday, Feb. 22 with an introductory video presented by Interim President of the College Dr. Wayne Powell.

Standing in Alonzo and Virginia Gent Decker Theatre, Dr. Powell opened the ceremony with an explanation of the new format, saying that the ceremony was “reimagined to extend beyond the traditional academic ceremony and to be more broadly caring of the spirit of service demonstrated by the honorees.”

Student Government Association President and senior Elizabeth Lilly then welcomed the virtual audience, saying, “With the prospect of vaccinations and the hope for consistently decreasing case numbers, we continue to hear rhetoric around returning to normal.” 

“But looking back on the past year and seeing the incredible growth, creativity, and compassion shown, I am eager to see how we can improve past normal and continue the spirit of progress in the months to come,” Lilly said.

The WC community received the second video on Tuesday, Feb. 23, featuring Interim Provost and Dean of the College Michael Harvey honoring Associate Professor of English and American Studies Dr. Alisha Knight with the 2020 Cromwell Award for Innovation in Teaching. 

Dr. Knight joined WC in 2004, where she recognized a gap in the College’s curriculum and expanded it with courses on African American literature, according to Dr. Harvey.

The Cromwell Award was presented to Dr. Knight for her Introduction to African American Literature II and Black Men and Women: Images of Race and Gender in American Literature and Culture courses.

“Like so many great innovators, [Dr. Knight] expertly weaves new and old together. She has boldly entered the world of digital humanities,” Dr. Harvey said. “Dr. Alisha Knight helps students grow in ways they never imagined they could. She helps them understand that old stories and texts, granted new life by fresh eyes and new voices, can help weave us together. And she helps students understand that the exploration of the past through literature helps us understand our world today.” 

The Joseph L. Holt Distinguished Service Award was awarded to four honorees on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Honorees included Director of Health Services Lisa Marx, Professor of French Studies and Director of the Cromwell Center for Teaching and Learning Dr. Katherine Maynard, Associate Director of Institutional and Government Giving Valerie Stewart, and former Assistant Controller of the Business Office Robyn Moore.

Marx leads WC’s COVID-19 response, overseeing testing and responding to student needs.

“She leads by example with kindness, empathy, and critical thinking. Her positivity, her professionalism, and her solution-focused approach to any problem at hand has cooled the fears of students, parents, and administrators alike,” Dr. Powell said. 

Dr. Maynard was honored for her assisting faculty with the switch to virtual learning, and her creating recreational resources for faculty so they can continue creating community and boosting moral during remote operations. 

“Year after year, you’re a model of service for so many of us. You help us become the best teachers we can be and support us as scholars,” Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies Dr. Meghan Grosse said.

Dr. Powell emphasized Stewart’s service in assisting the school and faculty in receiving grants, including that which helped the Chesapeake Heartlands program purchase their Humanities Truck.

The President’s Medal was awarded on Thursday, Feb. 25 to Bayside H.O.Y.A.S. and Clinton Daly for their ability to unite and inspire their communities.

Bayside H.O.Y.A.S. is a non-profit which promotes “academic excellence, positive character development, and civic responsibility among secondary school age youth and young adults in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties,” according to their Convocation profile.

“The Bayside H.O.Y.A.S. dedication to improving the quality of life for youth in our neighborhoods while directly embracing the academic and social success of young people involved has clearly distinguished their service to the greater Chestertown community,” Dr. Powell said.

Daly is a supporter of WC’s environmental programs, sitting on the Center for Environment and Society’s advisory board, according to Dr. Powell. 

However, his contributions to the Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall through his private donation and volunteer time in raising donations for the building distinguished him in the past year, according to Dr. Powell. 

The celebration finished by awarding the Alumni Service Award to Ann Dorsey Horner ’80 and John Bruce Alexander ’94 M’00 on Friday, Feb. 26.

Horner sat on the Board of Visitors and Governors from 2012 to 2020, was a “constant champion for the WC experience, tirelessly advocating for alumni engagement and support of the College,” according to Vice President of Advancement, Alumni, and Constituent Engagement Susie Chase ’90.

Alexander is a Chestertown local who currently works with the Federal Investigations Bureau. He served as a special assistant to former WC President John Toll and was the alumni speaker at Toll’s memorial service in 2011, according to Director of Alumni Outreach Peter Shafer ’86.

After the honoring of awardees, Dr. Powell closed the ceremony.

“This was a semester unlike any other, but as the signs around campus say, ‘We are better together,’” Dr. Powell said.

Featured Photo caption: The 2021 George Washington’s Birthday Convocation was hosted through five separate videos, each featuring the honoring of a different award. Photo by Sammy Jarrett.

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