On Oct. 24, the Kenyon community celebrated Founder’s Day, an annual ceremony that formally introduced the Class of 2027 to the College and recognized various faculty members for their accomplishments and contributions to the Kenyon community. This year’s ceremony featured remarks from President Julie Kornfeld and Professor of Art Claudia Esslinger, who gave the faculty address.
Faculty assembled along Middle Path for the traditional procession while students and professors flooded into Rosse Hall for the ceremony. The ceremony began with an introduction from Kornfeld, who welcomed the community to Founder’s Day. Kornfeld emphasized the recent transitions in the College’s history, including her own introduction to the College as president. “Today’s convocation is the most conscious celebration of Kenyon’s past, present and future in the College’s calendar,” she said.
Following Kornfeld’s address, Vice President for Student Affairs Celestino Limas led the Class of 2027 in the official Rite of Matriculation, which formally welcomes first-year and transfer students to the College. Together, students promised to uphold the values of Kenyon’s institution, create an inclusive community and practice academic integrity.
Founder’s Day also featured a poetic address from Esslinger, titled “Embracing the Unexpected: A Journey of Juxtaposition.” A slideshow played in the background, featuring illustrations and photographs from both alumni and current Kenyon students, while Esslinger spoke about Kenyon’s history and what students may gain from taking risks throughout their time at college.
Esslinger encouraged students to embrace their potential, regardless of how difficult it may be. “You might invent an experiment, merging facts that appear, enticing enchantment not out of fear,” she said. “Then the aspects of risk you embrace in your life would be hopeful conflations, not confusion or strife.”
Following the faculty address, Provost Jeff Bowman presented the Bishop Philander Chase Medal for Distinguished Service, which recognized three faculty members who had taught at Kenyon for 25 years. This year’s recipients were Professor of Music Ted Buehrer, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment, Director of Strategic Programs and Partnerships and Professor of Neuroscience Hewlet McFarlane and Bruce L. Gensemer Professor of Economics Will Melick.
Kornfeld then presented the second award, the Middle Path Medal. Established in 2014, the Middle Path Medal honors individuals who made significant contributions to Kenyon College, the Village of Gambier or wider Knox County community through work or volunteering. Kornfeld recognized two recipients: Fred Linger, who served as Kenyon’s manager of business services for over 20 years, and Gary Sweeney, who served as manager of facilities services and has also worked at Kenyon for almost two decades.
Lastly, Bowman presented the Faculty Advising Award, which rewards a tenured faculty member for their commitment, dedication and energy in advising Kenyon students academically. Professor of Biology and the Philip and Sheila Jordan Professor of Environmental Studies Siobhan Fennessy received the award.
At the ceremony’s conclusion, Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama and Film Jonathan Tazewell read the traditional founder’s memorial and acknowledged community members who died in the past year. The Chamber Singers then led Rosse Hall in singing the “Kokosing Farewell” as a community.
After the ceremony ended, first-year students planted their class tree on Samuel Mather Lawn with Kornfeld. This year’s tree was named the “Right Side Up Tree,” a play on the colloquially named upside-down tree which stands outside Stephens Hall. First-year students also signed the Matriculation Book in the Carver Reading Room in Chalmers Library that afternoon.
Limas emphasized the strengths of this Founder’s Day celebration, particularly in acknowledging community members who have contributed to the College. “[It] was really, really powerful to see some people with long shadows on campus be recognized for the good things they do,” Limas said, noting how Fennessy’s award was a well-deserved honor. “And I think it says something when Rosse Hall completely stands up and gives you a standing ovation.”