On Nov. 14, Christ Chapel opened its massive wooden doors for the first of many convocations. After the faculty processional, accompanied by music from the choir and organist Derek Stauff, assistant professor of music, Provost Christopher VanOrman announced the spring semester’s academic achievements. The all-school average GPA was 3.399. The all-women’s GPA was 3.486, while the all-men’s was 3.317. Pi Beta Phi earned the Greek scholarship cup for sororities with a 3.520 GPA, while Alpha Tau Omega won for the fraternities, with a 3.302 GPA.
Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn took to the pulpit, beginning with an acknowledgement of the people who made Christ Chapel possible.
“Duncan Stroik designed this building and we should thank him for that,” Arnn said of the chapel’s architect who was in attendance. Construction workers for the chapel’s construction team were also present, and Arnn recognized their work over the past few years, prompting a standing ovation from the audience. Arnn noted that the workers’ names would be etched into a plaque and displayed in the chapel in honor of their achievement.
Arnn also spoke on the purpose of the chapel.
“There is conflict all around us,” he said. “In a time like this, C.S. Lewis writes, things come to a point. There’s not as much neutral ground as there used to be. So we’re here to thank God today. We should remember to be grateful. The things we were made to teach are what we teach.”
Arnn then announced this semester’s winner of the Emily Daugherty Award for Excellence in Teaching: Stephen Naumann, assistant professor of German. Arnn praised him for his impact on the department
“Get that guy to take you to Germany,” Arnn joked.
After presenting Naumann with the award, Arnn introduced the main speaker Michael Ward, senior research fellow at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford and author of “Planet Narnia.”
Arnn said Ward is a man with “wicked wit.”
“We asked him to speak at the groundbreaking, which was the right thing to do, and now we’ve asked him to speak at our first convocation inside the chapel,” Arnn said.
In his speech, Ward explored the origin of the word “chapel.” He traced its etymology to the story of St. Martin, a young Christian convert who came upon a scantily-clad beggar and cut his cloak in two, giving one to the beggar and keeping the other for himself. St. Martin’s half was preserved in a sanctuary that came to be known as a “chapel,” derived from the Latin word for “cape.” Like the sword and cloak of St. Martin, Ward said, it is through our apparent weaknesses that we can make others strong, thereby putting a new twist on Hillsdale’s motto, “strength rejoices in the challenge.”
Senior Nathan Messiter expressed appreciation for Ward’s lecture, particularly the connections he drew between the historical context of the chapel, the purpose it serves today, and how it relates to the Christian life.
“I’ve been raving about why Dr. Ward is the best,” Messiter said. “He gets what this college is about and why we do what we do. He’s brilliant.”
Senior Stephen Richmann concurred.
“I think the crux of Michael Ward’s speech about strength being found right where you’d think you’d be most weak is connected to earth-shattering truths that are part of the gospel,” he said. “I appreciated him honing in on that. As a culture, I don’t think we fully understand the full depth of that.”
Both students described it as an honor to be the first class to experience convocation in the chapel.
“What struck me the most was the satisfaction on Dr. Arnn’s face,” Richmann said. “He felt very strongly about the chapel project, and he’s just very clearly delighted to see its completion.”