Past inaugurations at Denison have been documented with processions of serious men and women in academic gowns, new presidents greeting well-wishers in receiving lines, and rows of well-dressed guests jammed into formal inaugural dinners on the gymnasium floor.
One inauguration stands apart in our archive files, that of Avery Shaw on Oct. 21, 1927. Denison librarian Annie Mary McNeil devised an inaugural entertainment, a pageant entitled “The Heritage,” which was performed on the South Plaza. Hundreds sat on the grassy hillside below Doane to hear the University Orchestra’s overture, followed by more than a hundred students in elaborate costumes acting out three “episodes.” They depicted the heritage of Wisdom and Truth being handed down through the Great Ages of Man.
Here are a few words from Annie McNeil’s prologue, recalling a fine October inaugural day more than 80 years ago:
“Here on this hill, which in the morning glow
Urges achievement high in thought and deed,
Whose sober beauty in the evening light
Makes old men wish for years and what has been,
While young hearts dream and think the thoughts of youth –
Here, good friends, we greet you, who have come
To pay just honor to a leader new,
A princely gentleman and guide of youth . . . .
This place our stage, these trees and slopes touched with
The hand of red October, and this sky,
Our only scenery magnificent.”