From a modest beginning in 1930 as the Norfolk Division of William and Mary/Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Old Dominion University grew to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 1980 as a vigorous center of teaching, research activity, and community involvement in Eastern Virginia.
As part of the 50-year celebration in 1980, the tradition of Convocation was begun. The Fieldhouse was normally the setting for these programs, held every year until 1987, and featuring a nationally known speaker. One of the most notable speakers was Shirley Chisholm, but many others were brought to campus at considerable expense to the University. Classes were canceled from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. On the appointed day to allow faculty and students to attend the program. Invitations were mailed to many people in the community, such as members of all Old Dominion University Boards and Foundations, University Medal recipients, and state and city government leaders. The Convocation ceremony was followed by a luncheon at Webb Center for invited guests.
The ceremony and speech were not well attended. Students and faculty enjoyed the canceled classes but did not use the opportunity to attend the convocation. The most successful and well attended part of the program was the luncheon.
In 1987, President Joseph M. Marchello and his staff decided to eliminate the convocation ceremony and change it to a Founders' Day Luncheon. The first Founders' Day Luncheon was held at noon on October 14, 1987, in the Hampton/Newport News Room of Webb Center. The guest list was composed of the following groups:
- Norfolk City Council
- Norfolk City School Board
- Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce
- General Assembly Leadership for the seven cities - Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach
- Executive committees of the Alumni Board, Board of Visitors and Education Foundation
- Selected faculty and staff
- University Medal and honorary degree recipients Founders' and Rectors' Society
- Alumni from the 1930s
The program consisted of a welcome from President Joseph M. Marchello, remarks by Frank Batten, chairman of the board of Landmark Communications, awards presented by Robert M. Stanton, rector of the Board of Visitors. G. William Whitehurst was master of ceremonies.
Approximately 100 people attended the luncheon in 1987, and the program was very well received. The only significant change for 1988 was the decision to propose to Town-N-Gown that it co-sponsor the function and that tickets be sold to those who wished to attend with the net going to the Town-N-Gown Scholarship Endowment. This decision represents an overall philosophy of the administration that the University should sell tickets for many functions that are presently funded in an effort to defray costs of functions and eventually to realize profits. This is especially being encouraged for alumni events.
Founders' Day, as it is now perceived, should accomplish the following goals:
- Honor the founders of Old Dominion University
- Advertise and promote the University to its many publics
- Encourage community participation, fund raising, and a better understanding of the excellent resources and services the University has to offer