Convocation, celebrating Knox’s 172nd year, took place this past Thursday for a theater packed full of students, faculty, staff members, and alumni. After the audience rose to acknowledge a procession of faculty and the Knox College Choir, Janet Koran ’71, of the Knox College Board of Trustees, opened the ceremony with remembrance of her own time at the College.
“How excited I was to be at Knox!” she said, recalling the thrill she found to be and do whatever she wanted. However, she also acknowledged that with that freedom came some fear and uncertainty for the future. Those fears were conquered and she was quick to note that they didn’t extend to the classes of today.
“I have no fears for you and the success of this college,” Koran said. “You are among the best and brightest.”
President Roger Taylor ’63 followed Koran and who took the opportunity to stress the things that make Knox, Knox.
“We encourage academic excellence through academic integrity,” he said. “We could tear down the buildings and teach on the lawn as long as we have academic integrity.” Leading a warm round of applause for the entire faculty, Taylor declared, “The heart of [this] enterprise is its faculty. A college cannot be better than its faculty.”
Taylor also took pride in Knox’s self-esteem.
“We have institutional self-confidence,” he said. “When someone asks you where you go to college, do you look at your shoes and say, ‘Some small school you’ve probably never heard of?’” The audience’s resounding “No!” proved his point.
Standing against a backdrop of flags from countries around the world, Taylor also encouraged a positive sharing of ideas and warned against descending into anger when opinions varied.
“Knox is a world of ideas; a community of individuals committed to ideas – sometimes passionately committed,” Taylor said. Noting that some ideas are exchanged with contempt, Taylor chose to quote one of Knox’s best-known visitors, Abraham Lincoln: “No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for contention.”
“Let us engage in the exchange of ideas in mutual respect,” Taylor concluded.
After Taylor’s address, the Knox College Choir sang a new piece, Kalinda, composed by Sydney Guillaume. Roughly translated, it described how beautiful it would be if everyone came together and danced. Haunting and inspiring, the choir hit a perfect note both technically and artistically.
One disappointment came in the cancellation of the speaker slated to deliver the Convocation address, Tina Tchen, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Tchen was unable to reach Galesburg due to fog delay at the Quad City International Airport. However, President Taylor had her promise that “she’d be back.”
Dean Lawrence Breitborde took the stage to introduce the College’s new faculty members, brought to Knox to teach in lieu of professors currently on sabbatical or in response to increased demand in numerous academic departments. He also awarded the Philip Green Wright-Lombard College Prize, the highest honor conferred upon faculty members given to celebrate the sole criteria of excellent teaching. Associate Dean Stephen Bailey awarded the Elbridge Pierce Prize, given to the senior student demonstrating the greatest improvement in academic performance. President Taylor then returned to award the Faculty Scholarship Prize, honoring a senior student with excellent academic talent in addition to extensive extracurricular activity, in addition to the Jane C. Hunter Prizes, given to a salaried and hourly staff member to recognize excellent service.
After the award presentations and a resounding version of the Knox hymn, ‘Hail To Alma Mater,’ directed by Professor of Music Laura Lane and sung by the audience, the faculty and choir marched out. Convocation concluded with a tone echoing Koran’s final words: “You are Knox. I am proud of you. Welcome home.”
Philip Green Wright/Lombard College Prizes
Junior Faculty Member: Jeremy Day-O’Connell, Assistant Professor of Music
Senior Faculty Member: Stephen Fineberg, Professor of Classics
Elbridge Pierce Prize: Soe Myint ‘10
Faculty Scholarship Prize: Sarah Kurian ‘10
Janet C. Hunter Prizes
Salaried Staff Member: Scott W. Sunderland
Hourly Staff Member: Patrick Pendergast