Pomp, circumstance, and ceremony: Moments of transition remind us of our larger sense of purpose.
The ceremonies and rituals we humans fashion around momentous passages can transcend daily dramas and restore a sense of purpose in this life.
That’s why we do it.
At the Oct. 15 funeral of Babcock Professor emeritus of History malcolm Partin—a man notably less interested in pomp than in circumstance—we recalled his insistence that people made history, not social forces like the economy and political ideology.
The people gathered to celebrate malcolm were a living history of Davidson.
“This is old Davidson,” someone in the receiving line said. It was a comforting thought, attached as it was to all our more youthful days. Look, over there are Sam and ava and John and missy and Will and Sue and Hansford and earl and leland…. Of course, Leland! I have never laughed as much as I did when Malcolm and Leland would get on a roll.
What a solid tribe, I thought. Then, as I stood there, I felt that there is no old or new, just flow: here we all are right now. Someone is always arriving or leaving.
On Oct. 18, the college inaugurated its eighteenth president. From the first flag bearer to the president herself, the procession of Davidson people marched proudly into the present flow of Davidson history, creating it as they went. Four former presidents sat on the front row, spellbound with the rest of us as Handel’s “let the Bright Seraphim” touched the eternal, musical heart of the moment.
President Carol Quillen rose to accept the college mace. She spoke of the Davidson she has come to know and love. She spoke of people, and she spoke of purpose.
Trustee and Search Committee Chair Kristin Hills Bradberry ’85 quoted Search Committee members on Quillen: “We saw Davidson fresh and anew through her eyes. She sees the good, the beautiful, the excellent in what we do. She makes us want to share her vision for the potential she sees in us, to be even better.” at Davidson as everywhere, time and people march on.
At Davidson, a larger sense of purpose remains.