Emory Report
February 13, 2006
Volume 58, Number 19


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February 13, 2006
Different name, same party: Founders Dinner marks birthday

BY Michael Terrazas

The name of the occasion may have changed, but Emory still knows how to throw a birthday party, as Cox Hall again played host on Feb. 6 to the banquet celebrating another year in the University’s history.

Renamed Founders Dinner this year in connection with Founders Week, the event carried on the mantle of the Charter Dinner, which had celebrated Emory’s 1915 chartering as a university. With the week recast to mark the birth of Emory College, the dinner was moved from late January to early February (marking the first meeting of the Emory Board of Trustees on Feb. 6, 1837), but the formula was the same: good food, smartly dressed attendees (from all corners of the Emory community), beautiful music, inspiring words—and a shared love of the blue and gold.

College senior J.B. Tarter served as emcee for the evening, giving a short history of Founders (née Charter) Dinner before introducing Bridgette Young, associate dean of the chapel and religious life, for the evening’s invocation.

As in years past, a capella groups The Gathering and No Strings Attached provided musical entertainment, but the highlight of the evening was Tarter’s classmate, senior Jonathan Rio, who spoke about how he’s been changed since arriving at Emory.

A native of Billings, Mont., Rio decided after graduating from high school that he wanted to spend a year abroad before starting college. To that end, the Jewish studies major traveled to Israel for a year of living, studying and volunteering at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, and what he saw there irrevocably changed him.

One night while practicing football with his classmates, Rio said two men were arguing near the field; suddenly he heard six pops like firecrackers, and turned to see one of the men emptying the magazine of his assault rifle into the chest of the other man.

A few days later,” he said, “we learned that the incident we had witnessed was a disagreement between and Israeli and a Palestinian over just that: the fact that one was a Palestinian and one was an Israeli.”

On another night, Rio visited an outdoor mall on Jerusalem’s Ben-Yehuda Street, a place he said was popular among young people, and watched a suicide bomber blow himself up in a crowd of visitors. As the crowd of terrified people ran toward him, a second bomber detonated his explosives, followed by a car bomb explosion designed to kill rescue workers responding to the scene.

As you might imagine, [those events] made a rather significant and lasting impact on me,” Rio said. “Lost was the innocence I had so gullibly clung to; no longer was I a naïve adolescent who thought that world peace was possible if only we could all just ‘get along.’”

During his time at Emory, however, Rio’s disillusionment gradually transformed, and hope began to replace cynicism.

After carefully considering what had changed my outlook, I realized one very simple fact: It was the people around me who gave me this newfound hope,” he said. “It wasn’t the new computer lab in Cox Hall or the remodeling of the [P.E. Center]; rather it was Emory’s students, administrators and professors who inspired me.”

Rio had plenty of people around him at Founders Dinner to celebrate what President Jim Wagner called the “home stretch” for all seniors, who spend spring semester waiting (with varying degrees of excitement and anxiety) for May’s Commencement. The president then concluded the evening, leading a candlelight rendition of Emory’s alma mater.