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January 29, 2001

University celebrates
'birthday' with banquet

By Michael Terrazas

For an event dedicated to Emory history, the opening speaker for this year’s Charter Day banquet was ghoulishly appropriate.

“I’m a lover of tradition—indeed, I embody tradition,” said a statement from Lord William M. Dooley, read by someone the Spirit of Emory picked out of the crowd. “It’s a fine thing to have a charter for oneself, a statement of purpose to which one can refer.”

Dooley did have some disappointing news for the gathered crowd of several hundred in Cox Hall, Jan. 24. After recalling with fondness the initial offering he said was held at last year’s Charter Day, the uncharacteristically spritely spirit lamented that there would, on the advice of University general counsel, be no Second Annual Limbo Show-down between President Bill Chace and Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement Bill Fox.

Still, limbo contest or no, the event was still an unqualified success, as Emory faculty, staff, students, administrators and alumni mixed and mingled among blue and gold balloons and vintage black-and-white photos of the University in earlier days.

The event celebrates Emory’s transformation from a small rural college to a full-fledged university located in a burgeoning Southern metropolis. On Jan. 25, 1915, DeKalb County granted a charter to Emory for the establishment of the Druid Hills campus. Nine years later the Alumni Association christened Charter Day, which celebrated the occasion annually for 41 years before being mysteriously suspended after 1965.

Two years ago, Chace and the D.V.S. Senior Honor Society reinstated the tradition, and this year’s banquet marked the third installment of a reborn Charter Day.

“I think it’s a good idea—involving students, having a good time, telling old stories. From my experience, students like to hear a good tale told,” said Paul McLarty ’63C, ’67L, in attendance with his wife, Ruth. “If you combine something like this with a social event, so students have an opportunity to sit beside someone who will tell their own story, they’ll get a better appreciation for history.”

Delivering brief speeches at the banquet were Emory College senior Aysha Hidayatul-lah and alumna Teresa Rivero ’85Ox, ’87B, ’93MPH. Hidayatullah spoke of the “delicate balance” between paying homage to history and “yearning for movement and reform.”

“Perhaps the one constant in Emory’s history is an investment in change,” she said. Hidayatullah said it is forgiveable if the University occasionally falls short of its dreams—when discussions of diversity mute thoughts for fear of offending someone, or when professors are pressured to publish research at the expense of their teaching, she said—as long as Emory engages in “self-reflection.”

“Self-reflection ultimately enables us to dream bigger,” she said. “Maintaining a tradition of self-reflection allows Emory to move into the future renewed, changed and better for it.”

Rivero harkened back to the people whose work during the University’s earliest days paid off for generations to come. “I am struck by the personal investment of those earlier people,” she said, “investing themselves in something they would never see come to fruition. It can truly be said we stand on the shoulders of giants.”

After two songs by the student a cappell a group No Strings Attached, Chace closed the evening with the Charter Day tradition of lighting the single candle atop the University’s four-tiered birthday cake.

In another symbolic gesture, former Oxford Dean Bond Fleming passed the flame to current Dean Dana Greene, who then lit Chace’s candle. The entire crowd then lit their own candles, and by candlelight the room sang “Happy Birthday” and the Emory alma mater.


Back to Emory Report Jan. 29, 2001