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The Hill From A Distance: Honors Day

This post is part of a new blog series called The Hill From A Distance that highlights how the St. Olaf community is moving forward together, even when we’re apart. Each week the series will feature a message from a campus leader — and this week Provost and Dean of the College Marci Sortor shares how we came together virtually this year for Honors Day.

The Honors Day Convocation is one of my favorite events of the academic year, right after the Welcome Ceremony and Commencement. Honors Day is the time when we gather as a community to recognize students’ academic achievements. In normal times, we fill Boe Chapel with people and music. Professors and the Regents of the College process in their academic regalia, and we get to hear from a respected member of the faculty. It is a joyous occasion.

At the convocation, we acknowledge the recipients of General Honors, the members of honor societies and Phi Beta Kappa, and those students and recent graduates who have received national or international scholarships, fellowships, and grants. We also pause to recognize the contributions of family members and friends, professors, and those who have established scholarships for St. Olaf students. Honors Day presents us with the opportunity to combine celebration with gratitude.

Honors Day presents us with the opportunity to combine celebration with gratitude.

We don’t use the word “honor” much in day-to-day conversation, and it deserves some reflection. Honor is something earned through a combination of accomplishment and character. Honor must be earned, but can only be bestowed by others. As such, it expresses a person’s relationship to their community. It also expresses what the community values most highly. St. Olaf College is an academic community, and it’s no wonder that we take a day to celebrate academic accomplishments and those who have contributed to student success.

Provost and Dean of the College Marci Sortor

Honors Day is just one piece of the picture. At St. Olaf, we also uphold character. All incoming students take the Honor Code pledge. Observing that pledge is a commitment to the shared trust that forms the firm base of our academic community. Honor matters from the very start of every student’s time on the Hill.

The same principle — that what you do matters and that your actions and character distinguish you — applies to our Honors Day recognition of donors of scholarships. Donors contribute to student success. Their generosity expresses their intent to help build the next generation of Oles and to keep the St. Olaf community strong. They step up and we are grateful.

In normal years, Honors Day is a gathering of the college community, surrounded by family and friends. The celebration of students’ accomplishments continues with poster sessions and performances. This extraordinary spring can’t stop this celebration. Even as we shelter in place in all parts of the world, we still came together on May 13 for the Honors Convocation, virtually.

In the process, we did things a bit differently. We’ve got a new Honors Day page. During the convocation, we shared photographs of the recipients of scholarships, fellowships, and grants. We featured great music, because that is what St. Olaf does. We had an Honors Day address from Judy Kutulas, Professor of History and O.C. and Patricia Boldt Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Humanities.

The event this year was virtual; the honors and gratitude were genuine.

The event this year was virtual; the honors and gratitude were genuine. If you missed joining us live, we have an on-demand video you can watch and share. Please take a moment to join me, President Anderson, Professor Judy Kutulas, the college pastors, and some of St. Olaf’s fabulous music professors in the video celebration below. Help us celebrate our Oles wherever you are!