Students, faculty, and staff alike crowded into Stetson Chapel on Friday for the annual Founders Day celebration. This year marked the 184th year since the founding of Kalamazoo College back in 1833, when it was still named Michigan and Huron Institute and tuition ranged from $4 to $5 per term.
Sophomore Ian McKnight opened the celebration with a greeting from the Council of Student Representatives, officially declaring the organization back-in-business. McKnight welcomed Kalamazoo President Jorge Gonzalez, who greeted the audience and introduced a group of talented students who offered a preview into the upcoming spring musical “In the Heights” with their performance of “96,000.”
“Today we’re celebrating a birth–well, sort of a birth,” began Gonzalez. “Because 184 years tomorrow, this complex, ever-evolving organization known as Kalamazoo College was first created. What we celebrate today and celebrate deeper is the work, often unromantic, often tedious, often difficult, that was required to launch a vision.”
“If you go back to 1837, the curriculum had only two tracks. If you chose the first track, you had to pay–and listen to this carefully, students–$4 per term,” Gonzalez continued, eliciting laughs from audience members. Track #1 consisted of reading, spelling, English grammar, arithmetic, geography, history, natural philosophy, rhetoric, writing, and public speaking courses. “If you didn’t like Track #1, you could choose Track #2”, costing a mere $5. Track #2 included classes in Greek, Latin, French, intellectual and moral philosophy, chemistry, botany, political economy, logic, bookkeeping, theology, and mathematics.
What we celebrate today and celebrate deeper is the work, often unromantic, often tedious, often difficult, that was required to launch a vision.
“My point is that even in the earliest days of the college, there was absolute recognition that the most effective education involved explorations into difference,” concluded Gonzalez, delving into the importance of a liberal arts education. “184 years later, we’re celebrating that way of thinking… that forces people to go beyond their comfort zone.”
Gonzalez proceeded to announce the winners of this year’s awards, including categories for individuals celebrating from 5 to 20 years of service, giving name to members of the Golden Hornet Club–individuals who have served the college for at least 25 years. Recipients included William Crockett, Kiran Cunningham, Don Denhartigh, Forrest Duddles, and John Laskovy.
Gonzalez recognized philosophy professor Max Cherem and French language and literature professor Larissa Dugas for their tenure and promotion to Associate Professor. English professor Diane Seuss ‘78 was awarded the 2017 Florence J. Lucasse Fellowship for Excellence in Scholarship, the 28th recipient in the history of the college. Gonzalez also congratulated the baseball team who has consistently volunteered in the Kalamazoo Public Schools.
Students recognized included Annalise Robinson ‘17 and Caitlyn Whitcomb ‘17, recipients of the Michigan Campus Compact Commitment to service award, as well 35 recipients of the Senior Leadership Award. Swimmer Colleen Orwin ‘17 placed 8th in the 400 Individual Medley in the NCAA Championships and received her fourth All-American Honor. Senior Grace Smith also received recognition–Smith was named to the All-State Women’s Basketball Association and received the 24th NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship in the history of the college.
Within the faculty, the Outstanding Advisor award went to Dr. Ann Fraser, and Dr. Charlene Boyer Lewis was named this year’s Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate.
President Gonzalez closed by awarding staff member Gregory Brown with this year’s Lux Esto award, thanking him for 25 years of dedication. “I’ve been here a lot of years and it’s really nice to get an award–this is great,” Brown commented in an interview with The Index.
The college has planted an oak tree in the Quad in honor of this year’s Founders Day.