One of Kenyon’s most valued traditions is gathering each April to celebrate the accomplishments of students, faculty and other community members during the academic year. A traditional Honors Day Convocation — with chiming bells, waving banners and a Middle Path procession of faculty in full regalia — was not possible this year due to COVID-19, but the College remained committed to honoring that tradition with a live streamed Honors Day ceremony broadcast Tuesday, April 14.
“This year, in these trying times, it seems more important than ever that we celebrate all that we have accomplished,” President Sean Decatur said in his opening remarks. “In celebrating Honors Day even when our community is dispersed, we acknowledge the role that rituals play in strengthening the fabric of our community, and that what matters most are the values that underpin them.”
The program began with Decatur’s presentation of the Trustee Teaching Excellence Awards. Established in 1999 by the College’s Board of Trustees, the annual awards recognize and reward two individuals — one a tenured faculty member at Kenyon for at least 10 years, the other a member of the faculty at Kenyon for less than a decade — for exemplary teaching informed by creative scholarship.
This year, the award for a junior faculty member went to Associate Professor of History Patrick G. Bottiger, who joined Kenyon in 2013, and whose nominators called him “a most devoted and prized mentor” with “an ability to connect with students to help them understand a complex field.” With teaching interests that include American Indian history, colonial and Revolutionary America, and comparative frontiers, Bottiger is well known for a course that examines the cultural influence of corn for both Native and non-Native peoples.
Associate Professor of Political Science H. Abbie Erler, who joined Kenyon in 2005, won the award for a senior faculty member. Erler is heavily involved with Kenyon’s community-engaged learning initiatives, connecting courses in political science and women’s and gender studies to research projects and internships in the Knox County community, and also serves as a data analysis instructor for the Kenyon Educational Enrichment Program. Erler’s nominators praised her as a “demanding teacher whose standards are high” in her engaging, interactive and stimulating courses, and noted a willingness to devote hours to helping students on an individual basis.
Decatur continued the program by listing student winners of fellowships and awards, including Fulbright fellowships, of which Kenyon is frequently a top producer, and Goldwater Scholarships for student achievement in engineering, mathematics and the natural sciences; this year, Kenyon students won three out of the 396 Goldwaters awarded nationwide. Provost Joe Klesner then announced a long list of departmental awards, recognizing outstanding student work across all academic areas of the College.
Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 concluded the program by announcing winners of various College prizes, culminating with the winners of the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, the Doris B. Crozier Award and the E. Malcolm Anderson Cup, Kenyon’s highest student honor.
The Crozier Award, named for the dean of the Women’s Coordinate College who was instrumental to the establishment of coeducation at Kenyon, honors students who “develop major changes for the betterment of the social and intellectual life of the student body.” It was presented to Delaney Barker ’20, president of the Student Council, co-chair of Campus Senate and member of the committee charged with revising Kenyon’s mission statement. Additionally, Barker works in Kenyon’s writing center and the Greenslade Special Collections and Archives, and is well known as a standup comedian with the group Two Drink Minimum.
Both the Humanitarian Award, presented annually to a member of the Kenyon community who has best exemplified the life and work of Dr. King by the promotion of social justice through service activities and programs, and the Anderson Cup, awarded to the student who has done the most for the College during the academic year, as judged by the votes of students and employees, were won by Jodi-Ann Wang ’20, an international studies major from Vancouver, Canada. President of the Class of 2020, Wang also founded the group Kenyon Asian Identities, works with the Office of Admissions, chronicles her student experience as a blogger and is an accomplished jazz trombone player.
“It was humbling to be nominated for the Anderson Cup alongside two other incredible students of color [finalists Selam Bezuneh ’20 and Theo Hannah-Drullard ’20] who have done so much for the betterment of the College,” Wang said. “I share this award with everyone who has uplifted me, and I wish I could be on campus right now with everyone else. Kenyon is a really epic and magical place, and I miss it.”
Kenyon’s tradition of singing was also present at Honors Day, with Professor of Music Ben Locke leading the Chamber Singers in a prerecorded performance of “Gaudete omnes,” by the Dutch Renaissance composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck.
While Kenyon usually awards honorary doctorates to distinguished alumni and other members of the Kenyon family at the Honors Day Convocation, the College will present those degrees, and hear remarks from their recipients, at a later occasion. This year’s honorees include Daniel Mark Epstein ’70, an acclaimed biographer and poet and former faculty member; Janet Lord ’88 P’19, senior vice president for human rights and inclusive development at the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University; and Bud Shaw ’72 P’09, a pioneering transplant surgeon and the author of a well-received memoir.