King William III and Queen Mary II granted a royal charter for the creation of a “place of universal study” on February 8th, 1693. A few centuries have passed since that historical day, and I have to say that W&M looks pretty good for being a whopping 317 years old this year. In order to celebrate the founding of the nation’s second oldest institution of higher learning (and the nation’s first university) the College community will gather for a three day long party held in her honor.
William & Mary’s 317th birthday is sure to be one to remember, as we do know how to throw a good party in the College’s honor. All weekend faculty, students, staff, and alumni will gather to celebrate the rich history of the College and the true meaning behind her dedication to excellence. Throughout the three days, dances will be held, dinners will be eaten, and festivities will be enjoyed for all.
My favorite activity of the weekend is the actual Charter Day Ceremony. Each year, awards are given to students and faculty who have exhibited a desire to serve others and/or a sincere dedication to education. Honorary degrees are conferred to individuals who have made significant contributions in the realms of research, intellectual curiosity, and the development of higher education. After the awards, comes the reading of the Royal Charter, or the actual document signed by the royal couple over 300 years ago. While neither long nor very detailed, the Charter simply reminds us that the College was created in order to provide a liberal arts education to all those who desired one. Even way back then, W&M was truly dedicated to the study of “true philosophy, and other good and liberal arts and sciences.” Finally, important members of the community provide words of wisdom (this year Governor elect Bob McDonnell will be the honorary speaker) inspiring us to continue pursuing the excellence upon which William & Mary was founded.
This birthday celebration is one with no piñatas or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey games. For most, and especially for those returning to the College for this special weekend, Charter Day is a time to reflect upon our history, celebrate the achievements of the present, and look towards the future of this great institution. Birthday cake is optional.
– Amanda Norris