The annual Founders’ Day celebration, held in Rosse Hall, commemorates the unbroken line of students, faculty, staff and alumni who have formed the Kenyon community, from those present at the College’s founding in 1824 to the newest Class of 2022. During the ceremony, awards are presented to outstanding community members, the College remembers those who died in the previous year, and new students are formally sworn in to the Kenyon community, this year with a newly revised Matriculation Oath.
The new oath asks new students to uphold shared values of respect, citizenship, inquiry and intellectual integrity, explained Campus Senate representative Dan Napsha ’21, who served on the committee of faculty, employees and students that convened earlier this year to revise the oath. Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, who also served on the committee, added that the new oath was restructured to “better reflect the College’s values and expectations” and is a shift away from what formerly was a rules-oriented affirmation of “faithful obedience” to the College.
“Being at Kenyon isn’t just about following the rules,” Bonham said. “It’s about being a fully vested member of our community of scholars. In order to be an active participant, it means that you are committing to these values.”
To promote and reflect an environment of inclusivity, the new Matriculation Oath also discards unnecessarily gendered language, exhorting “members of the Kenyon College community” in lieu of “faithful sons and daughters of Kenyon College.”
Prior to the Rite of Matriculation, the Roy T. Wortman Distinguished Professor of History Wendy Singer presented the Founders’ Day faculty address, titled “Kenyon in the World and the World at Kenyon.” Through her address, she told stories of international students and faculty from Kenyon’s past.
“I have heard the term, and you may have heard it too, that there is a Kenyon bubble, as if things that happen here are disconnected from the world, but I have never experienced it,” Singer said. “The Kenyon I know is a worldly place in all senses of that term. My classes have students from Chicago and Shanghai, from California and Kathmandu, and what we study — Asian migrations, Indian history, the making of the contemporary world — are just as geographically diverse and contemporaneously relevant.”
President Sean Decatur awarded the Bishop Philander Chase Medal for 25 years of distinguished service to Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Laurie Finke. Decatur also awarded Middle Path Medals for Distinguished Service to retired associate dean of admissions M. Beverly Morse, retired director of athletics, fitness and recreation Peter T.C. Smith, and retired associate director of admissions Alice Cornwell Straus ’75.
Provost Joseph L. Klesner presented the Faculty Advising Award to Singer, who joined Kenyon’s faculty in 1988. Klesner also introduced 13 newly elected members of the Beta of Ohio chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
Following the ceremony, members of the First-Year Council gifted the College with a commemoration sugar maple, planted along Middle Path near Samuel Mather Hall. The Class of 2022 elected to name the sapling “Socratrees,” a reference to the Greek philosopher.
Newly matriculated students were invited to sign the Matriculation Book, upholding a Kenyon tradition begun by the Class of 1841. The book, now in its third volume, houses approximately 24,000 signatures, including those of former U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, Class of 1842, Oscar-winning actress Allison B. Janney ’82 H’00 and best-selling novelist John Green ’00 H’16.
—Ben Hunkler ’20