The youngest and oldest of Westhampton College students gathered Saturday in Cannon Memorial Chapel to celebrate the duties and privileges of being Westhampton women. They were joined by hundreds of alumnae to honor the centennial of the founding of Westhampton College.
Proclamation Night became Proclamation Day for this anniversary, and Westhampton graduates from past decades gathered on the Westhampton Green to watch the ceremony stream onto televisions under a large tent. Afterward, many of the participating students joined the alumnae for a luncheon.
"It's 100 years of taking women seriously," Associate Dean Kerry Fankhauser said of what made this centennial important. About 400 alumnae had been expected to come, said Fankhauser, who was chairwoman of the organizing committee for the event.
"I didn't even question coming back this weekend," Meredith Combs, WC '14, said. "Westhampton was such an integral part of the UR experience."
"This is really monumental," Sarah Bowers, WC '12, said.
Many of the alumnae who came recalled the powerful impact their time as a Westhampton College student had on their lives.
"I had goals, and it helped me reach them," Irene Massey Reynolds, WC '65, said. Reynolds, whose granddaughter is a junior at Richmond, expressed nostalgia for having classes with "just girls" because she liked the dynamic better. "At the time, you had such a camaraderie here."
"I kind of came out like a flower," Jean Biscoe, WC '48, said on how her experience as a Westhampton student trained her to be a leader in life.
Members of the Westhampton College Government Association and Women in Living and Learning led the seniors and freshmen into the chapel with two chains of daisies, a tradition dating back to the first Westhampton College commencement in 1915.
The freshmen put pen to paper for letters they would see again at Proclamation Night 2017, while the seniors read letters from themselves, three years younger. Seniors Janelle Whitehurst and Annie Schonberger read their letters before the packed chapel, punctuated by much laughter and a stifled, "Holy shit!" from Schonberger.
"Nothing seems to have changed, and yet everything has," said Danielle DiClemente, class of 2015 president, as she presented the new banner for the class of 2018. Although she was speaking about her personal time as a Richmond student, her statement reflected the sentiment shared by many others.
"It's remarkable how a place can change so much, and remain committed to its core principle," President Ed Ayers said of Westhampton College. "We were bold for 1914, and we are bold today."
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In a message to the Westhampton freshmen, senior Madeline Soskin, Proclamation Day chairwoman, urged them to take advantage of every opportunity they had at Richmond. "Do not forget how lucky you truly are."
Contact reporter Ben Panko at email@example.com
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