Students Lead Founders’ Day Convocation and Ringing of the Bell Ceremony for Chowan University’s Class of 2023
On Wednesday, September 4, 2019, Chowan University’s freshman class filed into Turner Auditorium for the annual Founders’ Day Convocation and Ringing of the Bell Ceremony. University president, Dr. Kirk E. Peterson, presided over the ceremony clad in his ceremonial robe radiating Chowan’s signature blue. Esteemed members of this year’s graduating class led the ceremony not only to welcome freshmen on their new journey, but also as a subtle reminder that they too will ring the bell again in the near future.
As per Chowan tradition, the ceremony opened with prayer; senior psychology major, Shakira Harris remarked in her homage that it is important to remember that university students do not arrive to college and triumph on their own accord. At the base of each individual’s support system, some caring individual has prayed for their success along the way.
In a symbolic act of commitment and accountability, senior psychology and criminal justice major Loricia Martin lead students in reciting the Chowan University honor code. With their professors on the front rows, students stood at attention and publicly acknowledged their pledge to uphold the university’s honor code and expectations.
Senior music major Tyler Maynard strummed and sang “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison, a fitting piece that embodied the fresh, optimistic mood circulating the auditorium. The crowd grew silent as Maynard captivated their attention and drew a resounding cheer of affirmation when he bravely and perfectly executed notes in the falsetto range towards the end of his performance.
Rocky Mount, NC native Jacob Hunter, a senior criminal justice major, was given the honor of addressing the class of 2023 with his speech entitled “God Has Other Plans.” Hunter began by describing what his plans were four years ago; he envisioned himself attending a Division I university doing what he loved most, playing football. But Hunter’s grand collegiate aspirations were not to become reality and he found himself choosing Chowan University, a small school in an even smaller town, as his home for learning and athletics for the next four years.
Hunter proceeded to convey what his future plans looked like three years ago. Playing football for the Hawks and dressing in white and Chowan blue jerseys on game day became Hunter’s source of pride and fulfillment. Three years ago, Hunter was a freshman already making big goals for his senior season. But as a junior going into his final year, Hunter decided he had played his final game. Though the decision was difficult, Hunter knew that in order for him to complete the path to graduation to the best of his ability, he needed to channel all of his energy into dedicating more time honing his Christian ministry skills and achieving stellar grades.
Nine months ago, Hunter found himself in financial trouble. As a result of leaving the football team, Hunter became ineligible for his athletic scholarship. Hunter considered withdrawing from the university. A last resort effort put him in Chowan University Provost, Dr. Danny Moore’s office asking if there was any solution to his financial crisis. Dr. Moore directed Hunter to the Chowan Christian Service Association (CCSA) scholarship. Miraculously, Hunter was awarded the scholarship and his monetary needs were met.
Seven months ago, Jacob Hunter stepped out of his comfort zone. He had found contentment in simply studying to become a minister. But when Hunter felt a divine urge to sign up for a mission trip to help Hurricane victims, he did not hesitate to apply. The mission trip changed his approach to ministry as he no longer felt like simply a student but rather, an active minister in training. Hunter concluded by reiterating his speech’s theme: the plans one makes when they enter college are subject to change as God redirects students on the path to serve His purpose. Hunter uplifted his audience with this final thought,“God may present you with opportunities that require risks. Take the chance to be bold and have the faith to go forward.”
Following Hunter’s speech, Zoe Gray, a senior psychology major briefly presented the history and significance of the ringing of the bell as it symbolizes the start and finish of academic studies at Chowan University.
Before students were dismissed by a closing prayer from senior graphic communications major Kendall Butler to ring the university bell, Dr. Christopher White presented final remarks. Simply put, yet so powerfully delivered, the former university president encouraged the class of 2023 to promise themselves, “I will ring the bell twice.” He encouraged the freshman saying, “You can overcome all of life’s problems. You can make it!” The journey to the second bell begins at the clanging of the first.