Jan. 25 marked the 88th “birthday” of Emory’s
Atlanta campus, and two days later the University threw its biggest
party yet as students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni
gathered for the annual Charter Day celebration.
Held in Cox Hall Jan. 27, Charter Day 2003 drew a crowd of more
than 400 to enjoy food, company and entertainment, and to honor
the anniversary of the day (Jan. 25, 1915) Emory received its charter
from DeKalb County to establish its new Atlanta campus. Nine years
later, the Association of Emory Alumni held the first Charter Day
celebration, but the event disappeared after 1966 until it was revived
in 1999 by President Bill Chace and the D.V.S. Senior Honor Society.
Leading the effort to bring back Charter Day were then-seniors Michael
Skolnick and Robin Thomas (both ’99C), who had been researching
Emory traditions and suggested to Chace that the long-dormant event
be resuscitated. To do so, they enlisted the help of Bill Fox, senior
vice president for Institutional Advancement.
“The changes on campus of the last 25 years have been staggering,
but it has been difficult to build traditions,” said Fox in
honoring Skolnick and Thomas at the fifth iteration of the tradition
they helped restore. “The tremendous success of Charter Day
has pleased, delighted and, quite frankly, surprised us all.”
After a welcome from senior Craig Villari and an invocation by Susan
Henry-Crowe, dean of the chapel and religious life, those in attendance
enjoyed dinner and then were treated to an address by senior Anton
DiSclafani, an English/creative writing major who spent the summer
of 2002 traveling through Canada and the southwestern United States
interviewing Native American authors.
The significance of the experience, DiSclafani said, was it taught
her how the stories people tell contribute to their sense of place
and, in turn, to their sense of “home.” In her nearly
four years at Emory, the senior has herself learned where her home
“I’ve tried to identify the exact moment Emory became
the place I wanted to return to instead of the place I wanted to
leave—I find that I can’t,” DiSclafani said. “I
just noticed one day, somewhere in the middle of my first semester,
that I felt like I belonged.
“Community,” she continued, “is the delicate interaction
between one voice and another, and another, and another, until the
chorus becomes more satisfying than any individual voice.”
“Voices” were all the next item on the program had to
offer, but The Gathering, Emory’s all-female a cappella group,
was quite satisfying, treating the crowd to their own twist on the
musical stylings of k.d. lang (“Constant Craving”),
Pat Benatar (“Hit Me With Your Best Shot”) and George
Weston (“Too Good to be True”).
After Fox’s remarks expressing thanks to Skolnick and Thomas,
No Strings Attached provided a Y-chromosome answer to The Gathering
with a cappella versions of “Always Something There To Remind
Me” (by Burt Bacharach), “King of Wishful Thinking”
(Go West) and “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” (Chicago).
Finally—and in what likely will be his last Charter Day as
president—Chace invited members of graduating classes from
each decade for which there are surviving alumni to come forward
and help light Emory’s birthday cake. Representing the decades
were Jake Ward, ’33C, ’36G (1930s); Bishop Bevel Jones,
’46C, ’49T (’40s); Betty Marie Stewart, ’52N
(’50s); Ben Shapiro, ’64C, ’67L (’60s);
Pamela Pryor ’69C, ’70G (’70s); John Robitcher
’81Ox, ’83C, ’92MPH (’80s); Christopher
Nunn, ’96C (’90s); and Melissa Roberts, ’03C (the
Chace, “by the power invested in me by the Board of Trustees
and by agreement with DeKalb County,” declared everyone in
the room to be “at least 21 years old” and invited them
to join in a champagne toast, after which both a cappella groups
led the crowd in singing the Emory alma mater.