February 3, 2003

Varied voices define Charter Day 2003


By Michael Terrazas mterraz@emory.edu

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 is.

“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 2000s).

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.






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