The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


A season of change: 2015 Closing Convocation

Closing Convocation, commemorating the end of the 2014-15 school year, was a tribute to both the past and the future of Chatham University. It marked the end of the final year of the Chatham College for Women, the retirement of several faculty members who have served the students of the Chatham community for many years, and the last year the University will be dedicating a year to a country. The event also marked the community’s commitment to the continuation of established traditions, and its open-mindedness about the possibility of adding new ones. The opening remarks given by Skyler Wilcha, President of the Class of 2015, captured all of this in her speech titled “You Can Invent Tomorrow.”

The event began with the procession of faculty and–as always–the senior class donning their graduation gear and traditional tutorial hats. The hats showcase the wearer’s tutorial topic and give seniors the opportunity to use the creative side of their personalities.

After the seniors was the procession of the flags, and then Wilcha’s opening speech in which she captured the overall emotion that members of the Chatham community have been grappling with since the announcement that the undergraduate school was going co-ed last May.

“If there was one place I didn’t expect to change, it was Chatham,” Wilcha said. “I was going to write to the board of trustees about how I will not donate in the future if we go coed. But I never wrote the letter because I realized that resisting would not change anything.”

She reinforced the importance of students taking this major change and instead of focusing on the loss, moving their efforts toward shaping the future of Chatham because the students next year will be pioneering a new university.

“Right now Chatham is your oyster, it is yours for the taking,” Wilcha encouraged the audience.

Change was definitely tangible. The 2015 Convocation will be the final time that Dr. William Lenz, Dean for Undergraduate Innovation, will join his adoring students. Dr. Lenz has been a constant at Chatham since he joined the staff in 1980. He was appointed Dean for Undergraduate Innovation to help develop a curriculum for the coming years.

Other changes include Professor Larry Viehland stepping down as chair of the science department; and Assistant Professor of Natural and Physical Sciences Dr. Gary Marshall and Assistant Dean of PACE Janet James retiring.

The event was broken up with music both new and steeped in the many traditions of Chatham. The Chatham Choir sang a piece that was written by the class of 1956 for Song Contest, and the Alma Matter whose lyrics were written by Katherine Pyle and music composed by Juliet Weller Gump of the Class of 1937. At the end of the ceremony talent show winter Heather Catley performed a cover of Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass.”

Throughout the ceremony, between the speeches and musical interludes, was the honoring of outstanding members of the student body who have earned Chatham Awards.

Jenna Templeton, Vice President for Academic Affairs, began by awarding Dr. Joe MacNeil the illustrious Jane Burger Advising Award. Afterwards, the four winners of the tutorial hat competition were announced. The winners were AnnMarie Ellison with a hat decorated with birds and buildings, Gretchen Geibel with a hat designed to look like a frog dissection tray, Heather Guerriero with a hat decorated with a cardboard macbook, and Skylar Wilcha with a hat made to look like teeth.

Next the academic awards were announced. The winners were Jeannette Schollaert (Anna Dravo Parkin Award and Mihail Stolarevsky Award), Anna McDevitt (Anne Harris Aronson Prize in English), Jess Turner (Beatrice Lewis Creative Writing Award), Tessa Weber (Chatham Excellence in Writing Award), Ivy Kuhrman (Chatham Excellence in Writing Award), Katerina Sarandou (Chatham Excellence in Writing Award), Kelly Gleason (Chatham Excellence in Writing Award), Sarah Jugovic (Katheryn Roberts Frank Award), Erin Smith (Katheryn Roberts Frank Award), Emily Gallaher (Lackner Prize), Kristina Hruska (Montgomery Psychology Award), Amy Gehrlein (William J. Strassburger Award), Lejla Avdagic (The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship Excellence Award), Lisa Sobel-Berlow (The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship Excellence Award), Natalya Mishikova (Glenda Rich DsBroff ’60 Memorial Scholarship), Sarah Daugherty (Theo Colborn-Rachel Carson Scholarship Award), Suzane Nanthavong (Sally Mercke Heym ’63 Memorial Award for Cross Cultural Studies), Scott Marshall (Lorin Maazel-Rachel Carson Award for Environmental Studies), Skyler Wilcha (Barbara Stone Hollander ’60 Student Leadership Award, Anna Rudolph Darlington Gillespie Award, and Susen Elwell Student Alumna Award), Meg Scanlon (Vira I. Heinz Scholarship for Education Abroad Award), Marla Taylor (Vira I. Heinz Scholarship for Education Abroad Award), Tahmina Tursonzadah (Vira I. Heinz Scholarship for Education Abroad Award), Christin Cook (Institute for Study Abroad Foundation Funds), Akencia Saunders (Pennsylvania Female College Association Award), Samantha Elbaz (Sigo Falk Award for International Awareness and Citizenship), Catherine Giles (American Association of University Women Ready to Lead Award), Gretchen Geibel (American Association of University Women Ready to Lead Award), and Jennae Reken (American Association of University Women Ready to Lead Award).

After the awards, Leah Thompson of the Alumni Association Board began the passing of the colors ceremony by bestowing purple and white flowers to Wilcha (as a representative for the graduating class). Wilcha then bestowed pink and white flowers (the colors of the senior class) to Tahmina Tursonzadah, President of the Class of 2017, for safe keeping for the incoming first-years in 2015.

Next the humanitarian awards were announced. The winners were senior Bridget Bauer, graduate student Shauna Kearns, Dr. Lou Martin, and professor Julie Slade.

After the performance by Catley, convocation continued with the moving up ceremony. Senior Sarah Weinschenker sang as everyone in attendance stood and appreciated a video collage of pictures of the senior class. The seniors then moved to the balcony as the juniors took their seats. The sophomores then took the juniors’ seats, and the first years took the sophomores’ seats.

Overall it was a moving ceremony that brought faculty and students alike to tears. It marked the end of the year, and the end of the Chatham College for Women; but it also showed the Chatham community’s steadfast commitment to the University.

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