January 20, 2004

Charter Day grows into weeklong event

By Eric Rangus

The Charter Day banquet, for five years the centerpiece of Emory’s celebration of the establishment of its Atlanta campus, is now an opening act for a weeklong campuswide academic and artistic festival to commemorate the University’s 89th birthday.

A new debate series, the dramatic reading of a new play, poetry and dance presentations, and even a planetarium open house will follow the rechristened Charter Celebration Dinner, Monday, Jan. 26, as Emory dramatically widens the scope of its Charter Celebration activities.

“I mentioned in a meeting that I thought it would be a good idea to have some kind of academic festival midway through the year,” said college Dean Bobby Paul. A committee of administrators and college faculty was formed to consider it.

‘We brought forward a plan for a weeklong, mid-winter academic festival involving various disciplines and offering academic, social and cultural events,” said college Associate Dean Sally Wolff King, one of the committee members.

University Secretary Gary Hauk suggested the festival be combined with Charter Day. Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement Bill Fox, under whose division Charter Day falls, agreed, and the “Charter Celebration: Mid-Winter Academic Festival of the Arts and Sciences” was born.

A center of activity will be Cox Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 27. At 4 p.m. the Emory Perspective Debate Series will make its debut with “Iraq Revisited: The Left and the Right vs. You.” The series was inspired by last spring’s Classroom on the Quad, which drew more than 1,000 attendees, and several members of the committee that put that event together also collaborated on the new debate series.

“The annual debate is being planned as a means to educate and build tolerance within our community about the spectrum of views of American foreign and domestic policy,” said Donna Wong, associate director of Multicultural Programs and Services, as well as a planner of Classroom on the Quad.

Much like Classroom on the Quad, “Iraq Revisited” will feature comments from faculty, staff and students, all of whom will take turns at the podium offering their perspectives on the conflict.

After the debate and the reception that follows it, 16 performers will take the stage at
7 p.m. for a dramatic reading of “War Daddy,” a new play about war and its affect on youth, written by Jim Grimsley, director of the creative writing program.

The wide range of other academic activities includes “Seeing the Forest Though the Trees: A Different Type of Growth for Emory,” a Friends of Emory Forest-sponsored panel discussion with campus environmental leaders, on Jan. 27; a Center for Humanistic Inquiry-sponsored faculty forum on “Worlds at Risk: The Responsibility of the Humanities,” Jan. 28; and a planetarium open house, Jan. 30, where viewers can observe Saturn (weather permitting) as it makes a close pass by earth.

Celebrating the arts is a major component of the Charter Celebration as well. A collection of silk batiks by Mary Edna Fraser will be on display in the Math and Science Center beginning Jan. 28, and Fraser will make several campus appearances to discuss her work. The week also features poetry readings, a dance rehearsal, several concerts and even an open mike on the Quadrangle. The Jan. 29 open mike event will feature a chalk-drawing competition on the Quad’s sidewalks.

“Cultural events are one of the things that bring people together, and we certainly have riches of culture on campus,” Paul said.

While the annual banquet highlights the first day of activities, it is not the first Charter Celebration event. Birthday cake for the entire community will be served in the Dobbs Center at noon, Jan. 26. At 4 p.m., Lucas Carpenter, Candler Professor of English at Oxford and 2003’s Scholar-Teacher, will present “A Few Poems for Now.” Paul said it made sense for the scholar-teacher to deliver the first presentation of an academic festival.

The Charter Celebration commemorates DeKalb County’s granting of the charter establishing Emory University on Jan. 25, 1915. The first Charter Day took place in 1924 and the occasion was celebrated annually until 1965. The Charter Day banquet was revived in 1999 through the efforts of the D.V.S. Honor Society, Emory alumni and then-President Bill Chace.

Planning for the revamped charter events began last fall, a relatively late time to recruit speakers from outside Emory. Paul said that is a possibility for future celebrations.