Jan. 20, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 8

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    Straus succeeds Ashenhurst, longest serving University Marshal

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    Last year, President Sonnenschein selected Lorna Straus, Professor in the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division and Organismal Biology & Anatomy, to serve as the University Marshal. Established in 1895, the Marshal is the ceremonial officer of the University.

    “This is a tremendous honor, and I’m pleased to have been asked,” said Straus, who has served as Assistant Marshal since 1972. “I believe the ceremonial occasions we have are important, and we should make the most of major events on campus.”

    Straus succeeds Robert Ashenhurst, Professor Emeritus in the Graduate School of Business, who served for 32 years, the longest term of any University Marshal.

    “It has been a pleasure over the years to see the joy in graduates after each ceremony,” said Ashenhurst. “And to complete my last College ceremony sitting next to the President of the United States was a most satisfactory way to finish.”

    In the University’s early years, the Marshal was an upperclass undergraduate whose duties were to oversee convocations and to organize public exercises in consultation with the Office of the President. In 1903, the position became an honorable, open-ended appointment for faculty. Although professors occasionally served as temporary Marshals, only 10 individuals have served as permanent Marshals. Straus is the 11th.

    Over time, the Marshal’s duties have ranged from overseeing Chicago’s Nobel laureate dinners to running class registration. The Marshal also works closely with honorary-degree candidates, a duty Ashenhurst said he particularly enjoyed. “I value the opportunity it gave me to meet scholars from diverse areas at the tops of their disciplines.”

    Today the most visible responsibility of the Marshal, in consultation with the Office of Special Events, is working with the Vice-Marshal, Assistant Marshals and Student Marshals to lead degree candidates through convocation.

    Ashenhurst also appreciated working with undergraduate Student Marshals. “They are wonderful students and their smarts are greatly appreciated at a ceremony where you always wonder if everyone is lined up correctly,” said Ashenhurst. Because Chicago’s tradition is to bestow degrees individually and by name, an orderly lineup is crucial to getting the correct degree.

    He recalled one occasion when a lineup mistake emerged as the candidates marched into Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Three rows of seating on the right side of the nave accidentally had been assigned to two groups of candidates, while three rows on the left remained empty. “Naturally, the extra group on the right was disposed into the empty pews on the left. But now, each of these three rows of candidates was in reverse order for receiving their degrees. The Student Marshals, bless them, managed to get the order adjusted, and the audience never perceived that anything had gone wrong.”

    Ashenhurst is pleased to pass the baton to Straus, who shares his long-term dedication to Chicago. Both Straus and Ashenhurst have families with a three-generation connection to the University; both love the celebration that goes along with ceremony; and both have attended almost three decades of convocations.

    “The achievements occurring on this campus during any given week are wonderful,” said Straus. “And I look forward to any additional ceremonial events that allow the campus community to take pride in those accomplishments.”