Honors College Seniors Celebrate a New Tradition

The Honors College Senior Common Room Arms. Design by Eric Pipkin.

The Honors College Senior Common Room Arms. Design by Eric Pipkin.

A new era dawned at the Honors College this week, ushered in by Dean Lynda Coon, a coterie of gowned faculty, and a French horn fanfare. More than 200 seniors graduating with Latin honors got an additional heaping dose of Latin on Tuesday, when they donned business casual attire and gathered in Gearhart Hall. There, the students celebrated their induction into the Honors College Senior Common Room with an occasion marked by much pomp, elaborate props and a new coat of arms. 

The idea grew from a Latin motto that Dean Coon has adopted, "Audax at Sapiens," meaning "bold but wise." 

"Our most ambitious scholars are willing to take academic risks, such as an international internship or a daunting research project," Dean Coon said. "But boldness without wisdom may not work out so well. They have to be sage in their selections."

Honors College Director of Development John Treat, a historian who has studied secret societies, used the motto to launch a new commencement tradition.

"Commencement is the crowning achievement for our students, and an area of campus life where the Honors College has flown under the radar," John Treat said. He looked to the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and some U. S. universities where students are organized around a junior common room. Faculty, staff and occasionally alumni are welcomed to the senior common room, a book-lined retreat for academic discussion that functions something like a private club. 

"Our beautiful student lounge anchors our honors experience and provides the premium napping opportunity on campus, so the senior common room tradition seemed like a good fit for us," Treat said. From now on, all Honors College graduates will be elected to membership in the Honors College Senior Common Room in recognition of their commitment to intellectual excellence. Each student receives a cloisonné pin to mark the occasion, and in years to come, honors alumni will be invited to participate in Senior Common Room events, both in Fayetteville and further afield, "where we will be able to serve you things stronger than sherbet punch," Treat joked with the seniors.

For the first induction ceremony, Honors College staff transformed the Honors Student Lounge into an elegant club, with fuchsia peonies, flickering candles, refreshments offered up on freshly polished silver trays and compotes, and the aforementioned punch served from a silver tureen topped by a wild boar. 

At the appointed hour, the group adjourned to the courtyard, where Professor Tom Paradise, acting as marshal, called the Senior Common Room to order with a mace sporting pendants of carnelian, citrine, snake vertebrae and boar tusks. French horn player Prashant Anand played Richard Strauss' Horn Concerto No. One, and then Praetor Coon, accompanied by Treat acting as sergeant of arms, and law professor Mark R. Killenbeck as cup bearer, raised her bullhorn and led the students in a lengthy Latin incantation.  

They vowed, among other things, me sicut aprum ducere et sapientem sicut serpentem nisurum esse. Si rei deficiam, spiritus meus in Via Dicksonia aeternum vagetur (I will endeavor to lead like a boar and to be as wise as a serpent. Should I fail in my undertaking, may my soul roam Dickson Street for eternity).

The students kept up pretty well, at times dissolving into laughter. 

"I should have brushed up on my Latin," mused Julian Alvarez, who is wrapping up work on dual honors degrees in nursing and business management. "Dean Coon is extra!"

Honors environmental engineering major Laura Gray summed up the proceedings well: "I thought it was a really fun way to end the honors experience, with students from all of the colleges, not just mine. Very on brand and fun!"

For the graduating cohort of honors scholars, Dean Coon offered this advice: "Go forth and be audax within the limiting frame of wisdom."

The Senior Common Room Arms

The arms of the Honors College Senior Common Room, devised by John Treat, feature a shield divided into equal vertical fields. The left field is white with a boar rampant in cardinal red, signifying boldness. The right field is cardinal red with a coiled white serpent, signifying wisdom. The shield is topped with a chief of gold bearing five slipped acorns, an element of the seal of the University of Arkansas, connoting independence. The motto is "Audax at Sapiens," meaning "bold but wise," or more loosely translated, "wise scholars taking risks." The cloisonné pin was designed by Eric Pipkin, manager of design services at University Relations. 


Kendall Curlee, director of communications
Honors College
479-575-2024, kcurlee@uark.edu


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