For the upcoming celebration of Kenyon’s bicentennial, the College will offer special dishes in Peirce Dining Hall, scavenger hunts and parades for “Kenyon at 200: Place and Purpose.” The yearlong tribute to the institution’s longevity will commence on Jan. 8 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony of Bexley Hall, and will feature both large-scale gatherings and everyday moments of celebration.
At the forefront of planning and logistics for the bicentennial are the Bicentennial Advisory Committee tri-chairs: Associate Vice President for Alumni and Parent Engagement and Annual Giving Shawn Dailey P’24 ’25, Director of Advancement Communications and Strategy Molly Vogel ’00 and Director of Campus Events Howard Grier. According to Grier, the celebration will officially begin with a Jan. 8 “soft launch” of the bicentennial-dedicated website and a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the newly opened Bexley Hall. Students can also expect bicentennial cupcakes at dinner on the Sunday before classes start.
“Kenyon at 200: Place and Purpose” will feature a large-scale event in both semesters of 2024, with a Reunion Weekend aimed toward alumni in the spring and Founders’ Day for the campus community in fall. Reunion Weekend, a marquee celebration that invites alumni back to campus, will kick off on May 24 with a parade on Middle Path and a block party on the South Quad featuring food and live music. Beyond the outdoor events, the weekend is set to feature academic lectures, a Bicentennial Soiree, an alumni Kokosingers concert and an alumni sing in front of Rosse Hall. According to Dailey, the committee is also workshopping plans for a historical timeline project on Middle Path and an Old Kenyon illumination — as well as other moments of “surprise and delight.”
Off campus, another component of the celebration will be a “bicentennial tour” with President Julie Kornfeld, which will encourage parents and alumni to gather and connect across the country. The first gatherings will be in San Francisco on Feb. 7, with get-togethers to follow in Chicago, Washington, New York, Boston, Cleveland and Columbus. “The events will bring a little bit of Gambier to those regions, touching on Kenyon’s history and looking to its future,” Dailey wrote in an email to the Collegian.
Aside from the more elaborate events, Grier stressed that there will also be smaller events and everyday celebrations throughout the year. According to Grier, bicentennial programming will include surprise menu items in Peirce, a solar-eclipse-watching event, a celebration of the Rothenberg Hillel House’s 10th anniversary and Kornfeld’s inauguration. The Bicentennial Advisory Committee is also funding special projects from students and organizations — approving a Marriott Park scavenger hunt and a campus-wide musical performance project featuring original student works in the first round of proposals.
According to Vice President of Student Affairs Celestino Limas, the novelty of the Bicentennial lies in a three-part approach: the yearlong nature of the celebration, the chance for faculty and students to pitch their own ideas and the chance to amplify the excitement over traditional events such as Homecoming. “An example would be when we do Founder’s Day or Convocation. Since [they are] happening during a Bicentennial year, there’s going to be a different level of performance that we do for things and also recognition,” he said in an interview with the Collegian.
Molly Vogel ’00 is the advisor for the Collegian.