A PLAN to establish some annual public occasion especially for the encouragement of intellectual endeavor was considered by certain honor societies in 1915 (see Part IX: Sigma Xi), but was not put into effect. The annual Honors Convocation actually arose through a suggestion made by President Burton at a meeting of the conference of deans in April, 1922, that steps be taken to accord public recognition of high scholastic achievement to deserving members of the student body. A committee of deans was appointed to study the problem, and later presented a report including the following recommendation:
… That there be held annually early in May a special convocation to be called the Honors Convocation, for the purpose of giving public recognition … to those students who have been elected to societies, or who hold positions where scholarship is a primary qualification, or who have distinguished themselves in scholarly pursuits though not included otherwise in the honor list.
This plan, with some minor changes in detail, was later given approval by the Senate Council and by the Regents, and the first Honors Convocation was held May 13, 1924, with President Burton as the principal speaker.
The rules provide that the printed program shall contain the names of (1) all students who hold scholarships and fellowships in the Graduate School, (2) all students in the highest 10 per cent of the senior class of each school and college on the campus, excepting any student whose average is less than B, (3) every freshman, sophomore, and junior having scholarship average equivalent to one-half A and one-half B or higher, and (4) the holders of other fellowships, scholarships, and prizes awarded on the basis of high scholastic standing or exceptional proficiency in a particular field. After each student's name are listed the honorary societies of which he is a member.
Student interest in the event has been increased by the device of making the Honors Convocation program the occasion of the first public announcement of spring elections to such societies as Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and Phi Kappa Phi — a plan conceived by the committee on Honors Convocation and concurred in by officers of the scholastic honorary societies.
At the request of officers of the Michigan Schoolmasters' Club, the time of holding the Honors Convocation was changed after a few years to coincide with the time of that society's annual meetings. The new arrangement, which enabled teachers in attendance to hear the Convocation speaker and see some of their former pupils publicly honored for scholastic success, proved so beneficial to all concerned that it was permanently adopted.
Persons of distinction have been selected as speakers, and have attracted large audiences. Among the speakers in recent years have been Ernest M. Hopkins, President of Dartmouth College, James R. Angell, then President of Yale University, Harry W. Chase, then President of the University of Illinois and now Chancellor of New York University, and Presidents Frank Aydelotte of Swarthmore, and Robert M. Hutchins of the University of Chicago. To judge from the evident enthusiasm, these addresses have inspired the entire University community and have provoked thoughtful consideration of the problems of citizen, student, and educator. The interest of the students has grown from year to Page 299year. As a means of obtaining recognition for the merit of scholarship, particularly through the unification of scattered forces already operating toward that general goal, the Honors Convocation has proven effective.