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Wilson's Fall Convocation Focuses on Honor

Posted: September 18, 2013

Honor has been an integral part of life at Wilson College for more than a century. Students past and present have grappled with the Honor Principle’s challenge to “act with integrity in all aspects of life.”

“There is probably no topic that holds greater significance to Wilson community members and alumnae than the Honor Principle,” Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Mary Hendrickson told students at Fall Convocation. “There are thousands of women and men before you who have struggled with the meaning to their lives of the Honor Principle.”

Several speakers discussed the Honor Principle’s effect on the Wilson community during Convocation, which had the theme “A Life of Honor,” during the Sept. 10 ceremony held in Alumnae Chapel.

President Barbara K. Mistick welcomed first-year students and encouraged each community member to live a life of honor. “Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character,” she said, quoting author R.J. Palacio, “These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”

Other speakers included Wilson College Government Association President Caileigh Oliver ’14 and Hankey Center Director Amy Ensley. In accordance with tradition, new Wilson students, faculty and staff signed the Honor Principle during the ceremony.

“By practicing (the Honor Principle) here, you start taking it with you when you leave campus and acting with integrity elsewhere,” Oliver said. “And that – acting with personal integrity, treating others with honor — sets you on the road to truly knowing yourself.”

Ensley described how the student government first established self-governance beginning in 1905. In letters from the archives, Ensley recounted the story of two students, who came to Wilson in 1933 and had different experiences in following school rules.

Evelyn Wilshire Pitcher ’37 and Hazel Barnes ’37 “were at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of social development,” according to a letter written by Barnes. She said she found Wilson liberating, “while Evelyn found it so foolishly restrictive that she recklessly broke many of its rules. She had a steady stream of boyfriends who provided dinners, shows, dancing and at least after the lifting of prohibition, occasional drinking.”

President Ethelbert Warfield suspended Wilshire due to the “innumerable times she had broken college rules,” and she was required to petition twice in order to return.

Pitcher and Barnes were roommates during their last three years at Wilson. They went on to graduate school at Yale, had wildly successful careers and remained lifelong friends.

“The moral of the story is that college is a time to discover who you are, what you value; to make some mistakes, to be forgiven for them and to be given a second chance,” said Ensley. “There are high expectations here for all of you, and we do expect you to embody the Honor Principle with integrity, honesty and care for one another.”

Last Updated: September 18, 2013