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Livestreamed Honors Day celebrates students and faculty

Livestreamed Honors Day celebrates students and faculty

While the world remains under quarantine, with Kenyon students taking their remote classes from various locations across the globe, the school has had to adjust many of their traditional springtime rituals. Lacking the typical fanfare of a processional down Middle Path with hundreds gathered in Rosse Hall to celebrate the successes of their classmates, President Sean Decatur and Provost Joseph Klesner hosted a livestreamed Honors Day ceremony on April 14.

The 50-minute long pre-recorded ceremony opened with a recording of Kenyon’s Chamber Singers, directed by Professor of Music Ben Locke, singing “Gaudete Omnes” by Jan Pieterszoon Sweetlinck over a slideshow of springtime Kenyon photos. The montage ended with a video clip of President Decatur, clad in and surrounded with full Honors Day regalia, standing in a vacant room, addressing the Kenyon community on the circumstances of this unique Honor’s Day ceremony.

After brief remarks on the unusual nature of this occasion, Decatur announced that the College would be granting honorary doctorate degrees to Daniel Mark Epstein ’70, a renowned biographer and former faculty member, Janet Lord ’88 P’19, board chair of Amnesty International, and Bud Shaw ’72 P’09, a pioneering organ transplant surgeon. The honorary doctorates will be celebrated in full, with remarks from those honorees, at a later date.

Decatur then transitioned to the Trustee Teaching Excellence Awards, given annually to two professors, one who has been on staff for less than 10 years and one who has worked at Kenyon for over 10 years. This year’s awards went to Associate Professor of History Patrick Bottiger and Associate Professor of Political Science H. Abbie Erler, respectively. According to remarks made by President Decatur, Professor Bottinger is “widely appreciated by [his] students and colleagues for [his] shaping of the U.S. History curriculum at Kenyon, and for [his] efforts to restore Native Americans to the prominence that they deserve in the larger history of the Americas.” Professor Erler was honored for her community involvement, including a community-based internship component in one of the Public Policy senior seminars and a focus on community-based research in her women and gender studies course, Gender, Power and Knowledge: Research Practices (WGS 331).

The program then transitioned into smaller, departmental awards and honors, while also recognizing those students who received special scholarships and fellowships, such as a Fulbright scholarship. The complete list of honors and awards can be found on the Kenyon Honors Day website.

The program concluded with Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 announcing the College prizes, including the Prestigious E. Malcolm Anderson Cup, first awarded in 1935 and inscribed every year with the name of a student who, in the opinion of the students and faculty, has done the most for Kenyon in the last year. This year’s recipient was Jodi-Ann Wang ’20, who also won the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award for the student who “had best promoted social justice through service activities and programs as exemplified by the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.”

While the ceremony helped the College honor their exemplary seniors as best they could during the coronavirus disruptions, there still lacked the prestige of a traditional awards ceremony.

“It was odd,” President Decatur said in an interview with the Collegian. However, he noted that he was touched by the montage of pre-recorded congratulatory messages from professors which played after the awards were all announced. “I knew the [montage] was coming because we asked for them … but I certainly didn’t know how many people would respond and that it would be such a broad response and a good, solid 10 minutes of individual folks weighing in,” Decatur said. “It certainly helped to make up for the fact that there was no applause in the room.”

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