Convocation Brings Gubernatorial Candidates to Ira Allen

An estimated 400 members of the UVM community showed up for last Thursday’s Convocation ceremony, held on Sept. 9th from 3:30 to 4:30 pm in the historic Ira Allen Chapel.

The Convocation, usually regarded as a mere ceremonial event best avoided by many students at UVM, nonetheless attracted a wide variety of attendees, ranging from first-year and graduate students in jeans and raincoats to emeritus professors in formal cap and gown attire.

Speeches were given by Vermont Governor James Douglas as well as Burlington town mayor Peter Clavelle. While rainy weather kept a considerable percentage of the student body away, there were still many undergraduate faces in the crowd.

“My history professor (Vice-Provost Willie Coleman) asked how many of us were coming and when nobody raised their hand, she said ‘that’s it- we’re all going to Convocation’,” recalls Stephanie Gergely, a senior Secondary Ed. major who chose a seat near the back of Ira Allen for the ceremony.

“Really, I’m very glad I went because, after three years here, I’m happy I finally took the opportunity to see what it’s like,” she added.

After a brief introduction by James C. Pizzagalli, the private contractor responsible for much of the rebuilding and renovation on the UVM campus, Governor Douglas then addressed the crowd. He praised the Honors College, newly installed here at UVM. Gov. Douglas also commended the school for moving up from 49th to 47th state school in the nation for receiving the most, or, as some would say, the least, state financial aid. This drew laughter from both the crowd and Gov. Douglas himself.

Mayor Clavelle then spoke, celebrating the development of the ECHO Center on Lake Champlain and the newly opened Rubenstein School. He then thanked all UVM students for contributions to the Burlington community, both economically and for their community service. Mayor Clavelle’s speech was not without criticism however, as he also encouraged students to become “true citizens” by paying better attention to city noise ordinances and lowering their noise levels when downtown.

The Convocation, marking the 203rd academic year of the University, comes at a time of tumultuous change for the school, change acknowledged by President Fogel and students alike. Since last year’s ceremony, UVM has seen tragedies such as the cutting of several popular varsity sports teams as well as the untimely illness of Joan Smith, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.

President Fogel and others acknowledged Ms. Smith in their speeches. Yet the University has also seen many successes in the past year, such as the addition of more undergraduate students and science research facilities. There is also the continuing and much-anticipated development of the upcoming state-of-the-art student center.

President Fogel shared the keynote address with A. John Bramley, a professor of Animal Sciences and the Senior Vice-President and Provost of the university. President Fogel stated that UVM would see a “momentous year, a time of great change and excitement.” He cited past UVM grads such as Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Lipton and Olympic athlete Anna Norgren Mahon as inspiration for current students.

Student reviews of the ceremony were mixed.

“I came for a class; we were required to come,” said Rob Andre, a first-year Environmental Studies major. “I thought the Convocation was interesting to see but it also seemed to be kind of a formality.”

Ms. Gergely would agree. “I don’t think it was that big of a turn-out, or at least not as big as it could have been,” she said. “The speakers seem to want to address freshmen but there just don’t seem to be that many incoming students in the crowd.”