Installation of Kathy Murray Transforms into Riotous, Bacchanalian Feast


Austin Biehl


Illustration by Taylor Penner-Ash.

Several weeks ago, Whitman College celebrated the official installation of Dr. Kathleen Murray, former Provost of Macalester College, Pianist Extraordinaire, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, and Supreme Empress of Walla Walla. Since her occupation of her Sherwood House Citadel in July, President Murray has been introduced at various college functions approximately forty-seven times. However, this was apparently not enough as the weekend of September 18-20 was set aside as the official installation. However, far more was planned than a simple installation ceremony. College administrators were quoted as saying, “We didst want to properly welcome to our humblest of institutions our wonderful president, and as such we made the necessary meagre preparations.” But were they meager? We at the Backpage leave that to you, dear reader, to decide.

Preparations for the installation began many days in advance. Workers labored for hours on end to construct a life-size replica of the Hall of Heorot in order to house 278 dignitaries from foreign lands who made the journey to pay homage to our Lady of the Blue Mountains. Upon their arrival, each guest was presented with a flagon of mead, two songbirds, and a brochure printed on solid gold leaf.

Despite the fact that few students were in attendance (perhaps because every single human on Whitman’s campus had seen Dr. Murray introduced at least twice), the ceremony itself was a refined, regal, and majestic undertaking. Whitman’s resident man-siren, Randy Brooks, performed a heart-wrenching piece, all the while accompanied by a small quartet of woodland nymphs. Rose petals rained from the ceiling and President Murray herself paraded down the aisles of Cordiner Hall astride a snow white, talking unicorn that performed the Whitman hymn. It was simple, touching, and not overwrought in any way.

But this ceremony was far from the end of the festivities. Post-installation, alumni, faculty, and dignified guests returned to the mead hall for the beginning of what would quickly become a multi-day, booze infused adventure. Wild reports streamed in throughout the evening: Lord Bridges (who returned from his new kingdom across the mountains) was sighted doing body shots with Queen Murray whilst Peter Harvey stood by and screamed, “Shots! Shots! Shots!” Ye Olde Brewpub was overrun with sloshed alumni and students observed the group of three hallowing out a particularly robust sweet onion for use as a bong.

Given their rambunctious evening, the bedraggled company didn’t manage to rally the next day in order to take part in a truly incredible feast on Ankeny. Despite planning for approximately five thousand people, event coordinators were astonished when the only people at the brunch were hungry seniors and Jewett first years who were too lazy to walk all the way to Prentiss brunch. Consequently, there was enough food leftover to have pulled a starving Ireland out of the potato famine. President Murray made a brief appearance to thank the staff, faculty, alumni, and overworked house elves for (another) astonishingly expensive welcome ceremony. However, every student there went home with a watermelon, an entire blackberry cobbler, and a bouquet of flowers, so let it not be said that Whitman College doesn’t spend money on its students.