200 Days in the Life of the College

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Marshal plan: Show up, look good

By Nick Stagliano ’11

As she prepares to don her “Cornell totally unsubtle red gown” and pick up her tri-cornered ceremonial staff, hundreds of students file past her into Wellin Hall, and Margie Thickstun reflects on her role as College Marshal: “It’s all glory and no work. I get dressed up in a fancy outfit, hold a big stick and tell people what to do.”

Thickstun, the Elihu Root Peace Fund Professor of English, is preparing to lead her 177 faculty colleagues in a ceremony marking the start of the College’s 199th year. She is the first to admit that the job does not entail heavy lifting. “All I do is show up and look good. And when I say ‘Please be seated,’ everyone sits. It’s great.”

The “job,” awarded to Thickstun by President Joan Hinde Stewart in 2008, has previously been held by such distinguished academics as Sid Wertimer and John O’Neill. Reflecting on the importance of Convocation, its pomp and ritual, Thick­stun says, “I think it’s important to come together, and we don’t do that often. After being away from the College for the summer, it pulls everyone back together, and I think the celebration is important.”

Contemplating her rich academic regalia, Thickstun muses, “I think we should wear them all the time. We wouldn’t have to worry about the clothes we wear under them, and we’d never have to suck in our stomachs.”