WILLIAMSBURG — On Wednesday evening, hundreds of students at the College of William & Mary (W&M) gathered at the Wren Yard to kick off the university’s 330th academic year.
W&M officially welcomed the new class of 2026 during its opening convocation, which featured remarks from President Katherine A. Rowe and speaker Cliff Flint, CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and a university alumni. Provost Peggy Agouris gave opening remarks.
“In case you haven’t noticed, we do like our traditions here. This opening convocation is always a highlight, a tradition that marks the official start of the academic journey at William & Mary,” said Agouris. “Look around and take it all in. We are surrounded by your great promise.”
The class of 2026 hung its banner from the top of the wren building during the convocation. The banner will eventually move to the saddler center, where it will hang until the class of 2026 commencement.
“The problems that we face today, as a community, a nation, and a world, are very complex and inherently interdisciplinary, which means we have to have people who are facile enough to move across different disciplines and different thoughts, which means, William & Mary is a perfect place to learn those things,” said Cliff Fleet during his convocation remarks to the new students. “If you think about climate change, one of the most pressing issues that we face, as a nation and as a world, yes, it is a science problem, but it is also an economics problem, a geopolitical problem, it is an equity issue. All of those disciplines and many others must be brought to bear as we think about how do we solve the issues of today.”
Two individuals were recognized with the President’s Award for their service to the community. The university recognized one faculty/staff recipient and one student recipient. Each received $500 to donate to a service agency.
“You’re going to frequently hear me say that William & Mary, here, is a place where adaption, perseverance, and service runs very very deep,” said President Rowe. “We think about that in terms of the past. We think about that in terms of the present, and the future. At each convocation, to highlight those incredibly important qualities, we honor two individuals with presidents’ awards for service to this community.”
The faculty recipient was professor Janise Parker, and the student recipient was Class of 2024’s Ashley Huang. Parker works alongside community partners to design programs such as Camp EAGER. Professor Parker will work with the Bray School Lab this year as a William & Mary strategic cultural partnerships faculty fellow. Parker chose to donate her award to Youth Outreach Urban Resources and Services.
“Ms. Huang has tutored ESL learners through Literacy for Life, and Fairfax Schools,” said Rowe. “She builds community as co-captain of the Chinese language house and service EMT in Williamsburg and Loudon County. Ms. Huang also volunteers with Therapeutic Horse Back Riding, and she donates her award to Spirit Open Equestrian Program.”
W&M also presented its newly-installed uplighting at the Wren Building, which was funded by donations from W&M alums.
“We want to celebrate you and to do that, we’re going to do something a little different this year. We’re going to light up the Wren,” said Rowe. “Thanks to the generosity of alums Bruce and Spas Christian, we have completed an installation this summer that honors Sue Gerdelman, the campaign chair of Willaim & Mary’s For The Bold campaign.”
At the end of the opening convocation, the new students walked through the Wren building and were welcomed by fellow sophomores, juniors, and seniors.