UC Davis community, faculty, staff and students gathered in Jackson Hall of the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts for the annual Fall Convocation on Wednesday to kick off the new school year.
This year’s convocation was unlike any other in the past, celebrating UC Davis’ centennial birthday.
A Century of Doing What Matters was the theme represented through five guest speakers who shared personal stories that demonstrated their contribution to UC Davis’ dedication to serving the community.
Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, who is serving his 15th and last year as chancellor, spoke about the spirit that defines UC Davis.
“Of this I am quite certain: everything that matters to us as human beings, UC Davis touches and transforms,” Vanderhoef said. “Whether it’s health, the economy, our nutrition, the way we live and work together, how we find meaning through art, music and literature, or how we preserve the earth thinking environmentally.”
He also spoke about the history of the founding of UC Davis, highlighting the contributions of individuals like Peter J. Shields and Jacob La Rue whose vision and tenacity helped make the university what it is today.
“They taught us to dream big, work hard, and never give up,” he said. “But I suspect that even they would be amazed to see the transformation of that 1908 university farm to what UC Davis is today.”
“They and so many others, must have sprinkled some fairy dust,” Vanderhoef said. “It’s the best explanation I’ve heard, the way things have changed and developed. They helped transform a modest farm school into one of the nation’s premier research universities.”
Gabriella Wong, a senior sociology major and winner of the Strauss Scholar 2008-2009 scholarship spoke about her experience growing up a child of deaf parents and her plans to support the deaf and hard of hearing community through her scholarship. She praised UC Davis for being one of the few universities that provides services – like the sign-language interpreter present at the convocation – for the hearing impaired.
Marshall McKay, the tribal council chair for the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indian and UC Davis Foundation Board of Trustees spoke about the struggle of his people and the progress they are making. UC Davis is the first university to have Native American Studies as a major, he said.
Dr. John Madigan, professor of veterinary medicine and head of the UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response team spoke about the contributions that UC Davis has made in the field of veterinary medicine, including a special sling to aid horses.
“Together we can carry forth this spirit for the next 100 years, beginning now,” he said.
Among the other speakers was Julia Ann Easley, a senior public information representative with the UC Davis News Service and American Red Cross volunteer who aided Hurricane Katrina victims. Dr. Condessa Curley spoke of her experience fighting AIDS in Africa, a School of Medicine alumna and Founder of Project Africa Global, and winner of the 2008 physician of the year award.
“I think it’s really exciting to be part of the community that is dedicated to improving society,” said Gina Dettmer, an undeclared first-year. “I hope to build upon that. I’m excited to be involved, to see what I can do too.”
UC Davis Symphony Orchestra was present to entertain the filled performance hall and led the crowd in singing the Alma Mater. The California Aggie Marching Band-Uh! performed afterward in a reception that included centennial birthday cake.
ANGELA RUGGIERO can be reached at email@example.com.