In the epic musical and film, The Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye (the lead character) and his fellow villagers sing proudly about the esteem they hold for tradition. The tradition they are referring to is actually a patriarchal family structure which is certainly not the tradition practice here at William & Mary. But the enthusiasm and reverence expressed by Tevye and the villagers is stirring, moving, and inspiring. The traditions practiced here at William & Mary are no different.
The College’s 1949 Student Handbook listed many traditions but elevated one above all others and that is the tradition of belonging stating that “those who come here, belong here”. William & Mary is nothing if it is not a community; a community of scholars, a community of minds, a community of friends. We celebrate this tradition every year on the third day of class with Opening Convocation. On a Friday afternoon, all new students gather in the Wren Courtyard to be greeted by the College’s President, the President of the Student Assembly, and a notable alum. Each of these individuals offers a formal welcome. But it is the informal welcome on which the tradition thrives and upon which the belonging truly begins. When the remarks conclude, all of the new students process through the Wren Building to the opposite yard and as they do so they are welcomed by the faculty, staff, and returning students. As you walk through the Wren doors, as the Wren bell rings behind you and the freshman class banner is hung proudly on the balcony, all of your community members are standing, clapping, and high-fiving you and each other to celebrate our new Tribe members. It is truly an unforgettable experience. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.
At William & Mary, just as in the fiddler’s village of Anatevka, tradition gives us a reason to brag, a reason to exist, a reason to sing. It’s who we are, it’s where we come from, it’s how and why we belong.
– Wendy Livingston