Traditions - Who We Are - Christopher Newport University

Who We Are


Convocation welcomes the incoming freshman class in celebration each new school year, and marks each students’ commitment to CNU’s community of honor. Faculty, alumni and others are on hand as each student signs the honor code. Each student is given a penny for luck and to symbolize a common purpose and dedication to live an honorable life. At commencement, the graduates throw their pennies in the Geese Fountain during the procession to the Great Lawn.

Penny toss

Each student receives a penny after signing the honor code at convocation. At commencement, the graduates throw their pennies into the Geese Fountain during the procession to the Great Lawn. The 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 …

Bell ringing at Commencement

The Clock Tower bell celebrates special events, like athletic victories and commencement. Each fall incoming freshmen ring the bell after the Community of Scholars Convocation, and each spring the graduates ring it in celebration of their achievement.

The tower features the bell from the SS United States, a gift from the late Dr. Sarah Forbes, CNU friend and benefactor. Built in Newport News in the early 1950s, the ship is the largest passenger ocean liner built entirely in the U.S.

A carillon chimes the hour and plays the “Fight Song” at noon and the alma mater at 5 p.m.

Family Weekend

Each fall, we welcome students’ families to share in the energy and enthusiasm of what it means to be a Captain. It’s an exciting time to celebrate the dedicated family members who contribute so much to student success, and includes music, sports and fun for the whole family.

Alumni Alley entrance

At Homecoming we invite all Christopher Newport alumni to campus to celebrate their student days and reconnect with classmates and the University. From tailgating and football to the famous golf cart parade, Homecoming is the perfect opportunity to honor the past and embrace the future of Christopher Newport.

Each spring, representatives from each academic department gather to welcome sophomores as they declare their majors, meet new colleagues and faculty and learn about the challenges and opportunities ahead of them in their new field of study.

Candlelight Ceremony

Candlelight is a solemn but celebratory occasion held at sundown the night before commencement to commemorate the newest graduates’ transition to Christopher Newport alumni.

Each student lights a candle from the flame of another to symbolize the knowledge, experience and memories passed between peers and friends.

At the conclusion of the ceremony the graduates sing the alma mater before celebrating their newfound alumni status at a reception at the president’s house.

Knowledge, truth, eternal wisdom,
Alma mater we adore.
Your sons and daughters walk the pathway
Trod by those who came before.

With passion, loyalty, and courage,
We wave the silver and the blue.
Our alma mater shining brightly,
Hail, all hail, to CNU.

The Office of Alumni Relations, in collaboration with Jostens and many alumni and students, designed an official Christopher Newport ring. Juniors who order one can take part in an official ceremony on the Great Lawn with President Paul Trible.

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