Days of rain and Sewanee fog gave way to brilliant sunshine and blue skies in time for Opening Convocation for the Easter Semester, held Friday, Jan. 18, in All Saints’ Chapel. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson gave the Convocation address and received an honorary Doctor of Letters. Ninety-six students were awarded their academic gowns during the Convocation, including 17 students who had previously been inducted in absentia into the Order of Gownsmen. See photos from the day here.
Robinson delivered an address suffused with optimism, beginning by telling students, “You live in a wonderful time in a wonderful country.” She spoke of her travels around the world, and specifically to colleges across the United States, where Robinson said she finds students “as full of good faith, imaginative and capable as those of any generation.” She warned, however, of “prejudice against ourselves,” a tendency to discount the value of our educations and mistrust our own capabilities.
Robinson concluded by reflecting on the love of place that is prevalent in towns across America, the interesting cultural life to be found on every campus, and the “amazing strangers” to be encountered everywhere. During her visit to campus, Robinson was remarkably generous with her time. She gave a public reading of her essays, met with several groups of students and members of the English Department and School of Theology faculties, and joined the seminary community for “Theology Uncorked.”
Robinson is a professor of creative writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the author of three highly acclaimed novels: Housekeeping (1980), Gilead (2004) and Home (2008). Her most recent collection of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books, was published in March 2012. Housekeeping was a finalist for the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Gilead was awarded the 2005 Pulitzer, and Home received the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction.
Other honorees during the Convocation were Stan Brock, who received an honorary Doctor of Civil Law, and the Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby and the Rt. Rev. John McKee Sloan, who each received an honorary Doctor of Divinity. Read more about all the honorary degree recipients here.