There’ll be a new face helping run the show at this year’s convocation.
Dr. Chris Sharpe, a longtime professor in the Department of Geography, was appointed the new university marshal last month for a three-year term.
Dr. Sharpe, who has taught at Memorial since 1975, replaces Carson Leonard, an instructor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and recently retired director of Student Support Programs in Student Affairs and Services, whose term as marshal ended last fall. Dr. Sharpe is only the fourth person to hold this title since Memorial held its first convocation in June of 1950. The other two marshals were Dr. Jack Facey, who performed the duties for 46 years, and Prof. Noel Veitch, who held the position for six years.
“I’m obviously very flattered,” Dr. Sharpe said recently. “I’m also apprehensive. The position is an important, publicly visible one that has had only three previous incumbents. Collectively, they are a hard act to follow.”
Dr. Sharpe is no stranger to convocation ceremonies. In the past he has been a faculty usher and, while associate and acting dean of Graduate Studies in the 1980s and ’90s, he was a regular member of the stage party and helped hood hundreds of graduating students from across the university. He said he’s looking forward to his first convocation
“I have been at Memorial for nearly 32 years and have a genuine affection for the institution,” he explained. “It is essential that the marshal and all the other members of the marshal’s team believe that convocation is an important event in the annual cycle of university life. I believe in traditions and think that we have an enviable convocation ceremony one that I’m looking forward to helping preserve.”
As university marshal, Dr. Sharpe will have duties both onstage and behind-the-scenes during convocation. He’ll guide professores emeriti and honorary graduands through the ceremony and usually lead the procession of the stage party on and off the main stage.
He’ll also assign deputy marshals to assist with activities on stage, orient honorary graduands, assist with seating and stage presentation of graduating students.
A large part of his work, though, will start months before convocation gets underway. He’ll consult with academic deans and directors and prepare schedules for the conferring degrees, as well as review the statistical summary of applications to graduate with the Office of the Registrar. And, he’ll collaborate with the Division of Marketing and Communications on logistical arrangements for convocation. As marshal he’ll also be called upon from time to time to assist with ceremonial aspects of other important university occasions and events.
It all adds up to a considerable commitment, but Dr. Sharpe said he’s ready for the challenge.
“Convocation is the most important day in the life a university student,” he said. “In its history and traditions, it represents the culmination of all the years of work so I’m glad to be inheriting a system that essentially works like a Swiss watch.”