Emory’s Freshman Convocation to herald the coming of the
Class of 2006 began—as its predecessors have—with University
faculty entering Glenn Auditorium on Aug. 27 backed by the sound
Interim Provost Woody Hunter gave the introduction; Susan Henry-Crowe,
the chapel and religious life, delivered the invocation; and President
Bill Chace addressed Emory’s newest class of freshman.
As far as convention goes, that was about it.
During his Convocation address, English Professor Ron Schuchard
waved a dead fish like a light saber and spoke of finding one’s
passion. Keeping with a theme of “gross things plucked out
of the sea,” psychology Professor Darryl Neill held aloft
a dolphin’s brain sealed in large freezer bag.
Music Associate Professor Dwight Andrews turned the more than 1,000
students, faculty and staff assembled into one, giant jazz vocal
group. Peter Bing, associate professor of classics, read in Greek
the “Siren’s Song” from The Odyssey,
accompanied by an acoustic guitar and an interpretive dance by lecturer
George Staib of the health, physical education and dance department.
And, to culminate the singing of Emory’s alma mater by a cappella
group No Strings Attached, chemistry Professor Emeritus Ronald Johnson
mixed together a couple solutions that turned gold then blue on
This was not your father’s convocation. Or even your sophomore’s.
“This year, we worked to provide a lively and stimulating
opening to the academic year and to show the new class the panoply
of riches they are about to encounter,” said Sally Wolff King,
associate dean of Emory College. “They sought to inspire in
the entering class, now standing at the threshold of academe, a
degree of awe, challenge and revelation.” Mission accomplished.
Schuchard, the main speaker, was sincere yet often lighthearted.
Of course, it’s tough
to brood while clutching the 2-foot-long body of a dead dogfish
shark, which he used as a visual aid. (“I still reek of the
formaldehyde,” he said later.)
Calling his speech, “The Shark’s Ear,” Schuchard,
Goodrich C. White Professor of English, told of his quest to remove
the practically invisible—and unobtainable—ear of a
shark while an undergraduate at the University of Texas.
He was successful, but was unable to find anyone to share his reverie.
With that experience, Schuchard said, he learned a lesson.
“The shark’s ear had lifted me for the first time off
my lab stool and put me in my rapture seat,” he said. “Oh,
Class of 2006, you don’t want to miss your rapture seat—your
first experience of self-transport and intellectual joy. But I regret
to tell you that there was a steep downside: No one cared. And no
one will care when you get yours. The shark’s ear is something
you must celebrate alone, even if you are loud and passionate about
Passion was something that Bing, the first speaker, brought to his
lyrical reading of The Odyssey, an epic poem referenced
by several speakers because of its theme of a journey come full
After Bing and Schuchard, the surprises weren’t over. To illustrate
what had been a pretty conventional talk about the connection between
brains and wisdom, Neill unveiled a dolphin’s brain—inspiring
several cringes—he had borrowed from psychology colleague
Andrews, who teaches a popular jazz history class, then turned Convocation
into a participatory activity. In a rather remarkable stroke, he
was able to encourage the faculty members seated on the stage (including
President Chace, Provost Hunter and the deans of most of Emory’s
schools) to snap their fingers in rhythmic unison. Andrews then
assigned each section of Glenn to mimic a different voice or instrument.
The many heads bobbing told Andrews that his experiment was a success.
Not only was the 2002 Convocation unique in its academic and artistic
focus, but its religious aspect was transformed as well. Henry-Crowe,
for instance, was not alone when she gave the invocation. Muslim
and Baha’i prayers, delivered in two languages by students
of each faith, followed her. The benediction consisted of prayers
given by a Jewish student, a Hindu student and a quartet of Tibetan
monks, whose melodic chant was a uniquely ecumenical way to start
the Class of 2006 on its way.
One of the few portions of Convocation that resembled previous years
was President Chace’s address, which was part welcome and
“You, like [Odysseus], have been strong in the past, and you
have been honored in your own land,” Chace said. “Some
months or years ago, you knew that you had to leave the confines
of your past and that you owed yourself a long, deep thrust into
something new. Well, you have found it.”
“You will have your character as your guide,” Chace
continued. “You will experience much, and you will journey
upon a great circle. And you will come back to yourself—a
better self. That, Class of 2006, is really what college is all
New ceremony welcomes
class on McDonough Field
The Class of 2006’s Emory experience actually
began Saturday, Aug. 24, with freshman move-in. Parents and new
students of all sorts lugged boxes of clothes, electronic equipment
and other comforts and necessities out of seemingly every parking
lot on campus into dorms spruced up for their new residents.
At 4 p.m. that afternoon, all freshmen gathered on the newly resodded
McDonough Field for a 15-minute welcoming ceremony, a new feature
of orientation. Backed by his army of red-shirted, khaki-shorted
orientation leaders, coordinator of new student orientation Paul
Towne welcomed the new class and introduced them to Student Government
Association President Christopher Richardson, who encouraged the
students to become involved on campus.
“This place costs $37,000 a year to attend. Don’t let
that go to waste,” Richardson said.
Vice President of Alumni Affairs and Special Programs Bob Pennington
then led the gathering in a Dasani bottled-water toast—a pleasant
refresher on what was a very muggy afternoon.
After that, the freshmen broke up into their orientation groups
and met their student leaders for the first time. That was the first
step in orientation process that dominated the weekend and much
of last week, culminating in the receipt of their schedules Tuesday
night, Aug. 27.