Every incoming freshman takes a solemn oath to live honorably and signs the honor code. Upon doing so, each is given a penny for luck and as a symbol of their commitment in the hope that he or she will keep it over the next four years, and then toss it into the Geese Fountain on Saunders Plaza during the procession to the Great Lawn at commencement.
Begun in 2001, this tradition has been repeated over the years by countless Captains. Each penny is accompanied by a dedication written by the late CNU Associate Provost and English Professor, Dr. Tracey Schwarze:
This penny is but a small tribute to the spirit of honor of all those who learn and lead here.
To give your word and keep it as a person of integrity;
To treasure the life of the mind and the spirit of intellectual inquiry;
To value richness of character over richness of purse;
To give, because to you, much has been given;
To seek important work — and to do it with all your heart
Keep this faith as you become a citizen of CNU, of the nation and the world
And one day
As you remember
The grandeur of the Ferguson Center,
The beauty of the Great Lawn,
The tranquility of the James, and
The friends and mentors of your youth,
You will know that you have lived a life of honor and significance ...
Todd Smith (’13) recalls the night he received his penny and the effect it had on him as a freshman. “I remember walking into the Ferguson Center with my roommates,” he says. “For me, the convocation emphasized the high regard CNU has for the honor code. I vividly remember receiving my penny — it was an exciting time that marked the beginning of my journey as a CNU Captain.”
Smith has kept his penny in a safe place during his four years on campus, but is now ready to part with it, albeit with mixed emotions. “I feel as if I blinked and now my college career is coming to an end,” he says. “I know that may sound like a cliché, but the feeling is authentic.” He goes on to reflect on how he has grown as a person through his college experience. “There are so many ways that college has changed me,” says Smith. “The penny reminds me of how I have grown; yet, I am still the same old Todd. Now it’s time to throw it in the fountain and begin my next journey of life.”
He’ll be joined by 800 or so of his fellow Captains.
After commencement the pennies are collected from the fountain and placed in the graduating class account for future use.