The University unveiled a new medallion on front campus on Oct. 22, its 270thcharter day. The newly installed medallion reads the University’s updated informal motto — “In the nation’s service and service of humanity” — words spoken by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor ’76 during her acceptance speech for the 2014 Woodrow Wilson Award, the highest honor for undergraduate alumni, during Alumni Day.
University President Christopher Eisgruber '83, University Trustee and Chair of the Wilson Legacy Review Committee Brent Henry '69, and President of the Alumni Association Jeff Wieser '74 among other University administrators and affiliates joined in the occasion on Saturday morning.
Eisgruber addressed a crowd of more than seventy administrators and alumni who attended the unveiling ceremony. In his remarks, Eisgruber described that the University’s original motto – "in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations" – recalls the ideals of global responsibility and leadership articulated by Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879. Yet, according to Eisgruber, Wilson’s reference to the nation was incomplete and exclusive.
Eisgruber further noted that in 1996, the University’s eighteenth president, Harold Shapiro GS '64, also addressed the connotation of exclusivity in that phrase by reinterpreting Wilson’s idea and the University's tradition to embrace service not only to this nation but to all nations.
“Today, we again revise the motto, this time to correct forms of partiality inherent in the very concept of nationhood,” Eisgruber said during the ceremony.
He further explained that the word “nation” comes from the Latin word for birth, which suggests a people tied together by blood, ethnicity, and culture.
Eisgruber also noted that the change of medallions is a part of the “vibrant evolution” of traditions that shapes the identity of the University.
“The traditions of this University, like those of our country and our Constitution, are living things. We do them no justice if we regard them as relics deserving of uncritical adulation, mindless obeisance, or ossified preservation,” Eisgruber said.
“We give those traditions their due — we honor them most faithfully — only if we cultivate them actively in light of the values and purposes at the heart of this great liberal arts University,” he continued.
The change of medallion in front campus came as part of a recommendation put forward by the Wilson Legacy Review Committee last April. The committee also called for the creation of a committee to examine campus iconography.
These and other changes proposed by the Wilson Legacy Review Committee were a response to protests last November. During the sit-in protest, students asked the University to rename The Wilson School, the major, as well as Wilson College. Ultimately, the Wilson Legacy Review Committee recommended against removing the name but advocated for increased diversity initiatives.
The old medallion has gone into storage and there are no specific plans for it at this time, according to Assistant Vice President for Communications Daniel Day.
The unveiling ceremony took place in Chancellor Green on Oct. 22, at 10:15 a.m.