Sewanee celebrated Founders’ Day Oct. 17 with the traditional Convocation and the induction of almost 300 new members into the Order of Gownsmen. Terry L. Papillon was installed as Dean of the College during the ceremony, three honorary degrees were awarded, and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed delivered the Founders’ Day Address. Members of Sewanee’s Board of Trustees were honored guests at the Convocation.
Academic awards and prizes were announced by Provost John Swallow (see the list here).
The University conferred honorary degrees upon Abed, founder and chairperson of the world’s largest development organization, who received an honorary Doctor of Civil Law; the Rt. Rev. Rayford High, provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, who received an honorary Doctor of Divinity; and U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Wright, who received an honorary Doctor of Letters. Read more about Abed, High and Wright here.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed founded the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (now known as BRAC), the world’s largest not-for-profit organization, in the 1970s. BRAC’s interventions, which seek to help the poorest of the poor and now extend beyond Bangladesh, are in key areas such as agriculture and nutrition, housing, education, employment, and enterprise development, as well as microfinance and other forms of access to financial services. More than 700,000 children are enrolled in BRAC’s primary schools, over 100 million people have been served by its health program, and more than five million borrowers have benefitted from loans from its microfinance program.
In his address, Abed (left) spoke about giving people in poverty the tools they need to take control of their lives, empowering them to help solve societal problems. He reflected on the progress made in Bangladesh, revealed by key indicators such as infant mortality rates, education levels, incomes, and life expectancy. Some have called the changes miraculous, but Abed argued that they are not a miracle, but the result of hard work.
He spoke of the values shared by BRAC and Sewanee. These include the belief that a liberal arts education is not only about intellectual pursuits, but also about learning to live a “life of value.” An education at Sewanee gives students the ability and freedom to see beyond themselves. He has been inspiring students in the Sewanee Bangladesh Program for years; many have met him during their visits to BRAC and participation in internships with the organization.
Following the address, Nate Foster, president of the Order of Gownsmen, spoke of the academic gown—many with unique embroidery, but each part of a common thread weaving together generations of Sewanee students. He announced the names of new members as each stood to be recognized before being admitted to the Order by the vice-chancellor and receiving his or her gown. Because Founders’ Day was celebrated at the beginning of Family Weekend, many parents were in attendance to celebrate the achievement.
The Convocation concluded with the singing of the Alma Mater and the sound of the bells of the Leonidas Polk Memorial Carillon. See video of Convocation here.