The annual celebration of Charter Day at the College of William and Mary was initiated by President John Stewart Bryan on February 8, 1937. The first Charter Day was known as Founder's Day and included an academic procession with the faculty and students in academic regalia, walking from Jefferson Hall dormitory to Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall (present day Ewell Hall. Drawing on the reference of granting the Royal Charter to a President and Six Masters, President Bryan was joined on stage at Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall by six professors. The choir sang "God Save the King," one professor read excerpts from the charter, and Wesley Frank Craven, visiting professor of history from New York University, gave the principal address about the historical background of the founding of William and Mary. President Bryan’s love of pomp and pageantry also led to the annual Yule Log Ceremony.
During the eighteenth century Transfer Day was the usual time of celebrating the birth of William and Mary by observing the anniversary of the Transfer of the Royal Charter from the founders of the College to the President and Masters of the College on August 15, 1729.
In 1859, the 166th anniversary of the College of William and Mary was celebrated on February 19 with an address by John Tyler, former president of the United States, and a reading of St. George Tucker’s celebratory poem by the poet himself. St. George Tucker was the grandson of the man for whom Tucker Hall is named.
The tradition of having Charter Day Speakers of note to address the audience carried over from the nineteenth century to the present. Once the new Phi Beta Kappa Hall was built in 1957, the Charter Day exercises were moved there from Ewell Hall. Since 1957, the majority of the Charter Day exercises have been in Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall, except on rare occasions when the expected speaker may draw more of a crowd. For instance, the 1968 Charter Day ceremony was held in Blow Gymnasium for Sir Patrick Henry Dean – Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador to the U.S. The Right Reverand and Right Honorable Robert Wright Stopford, Bishop of London. The Charter Day ceremony in 1993 was held in William and Mary Hall with His Royal Highness Prince Charles as the speaker on the occasion of the College's 300th Anniversary.
Charter Day Celebration Exercises
The main characteristics of the Charter Day exercises has changed little over the years. The following is a listing of the main aspects of the present-day exersises in order from beginning to end.
- Introductory remarks by the President of the College of William and Mary.
- Reading from the Royal Charter by the Provost.
- Reading from the Royal Proclamation by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
- Presentation of the Charter Day Awards, which include the James Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership, Thomas Jefferson Award, Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy, Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, as well as honorary degrees. Winners of the Alumni Medallion (currently awarded the day before) are also recognized.
- Conferral of the Honorary degree recipients.
- Charter Day Address from a guest speaker. The newly-elected governor of Virginia customarily speaks the first Charter Day after the election.
- Closing remarks by the President.
- The choir sings the Alma mater and the William and Mary Hymn to close the program.
Material in the Special Collections Research Center
- Charter Day exhibit, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
- "Charter" and "Charter Day" files, University Archives Subject File Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
- Charter Day Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary. Includes programs, published guides, invitations, and related material.
- Various administrative office records.
- University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
- University Archives Audiovisual Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
- Godson, Susan H. et. al., The College of William and Mary: A History, King and Queen Press, Society of the Alumni, College of William and Mary, 1993, pg. 72, 643.
- Charter Day, University Archives Subject File Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
- Charter Day Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
Do you want to share your memories of recent or past Charter Days? You are welcome to create an account and add your memories to this section of the SCRC Wiki page or if you prefer, contact University Archivist Amy Schindler (email@example.com or 757-221-3094). In either case, please include your name and class year. We look forward to hearing from you.
- Charter Day Website from the College of William and Mary. Accessed 17 January 2010.
- Brian Focarino's blog post on plans for Charter Day 2010. Accessed 22 October 2009.
To search for further material, visit the Special Collections Research Center's Search Tool List for an overview of the Special Collections Database, W&M Digital Archive, Flat Hat-William & Mary News-Alumni Gazette index, card catalogs, and other tools available to help you find material of interest in William & Mary Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
|A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki|
|The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.|