Assumption to Make Way for the Ducks
Assumption College's 10th annual “Duck Day” tradition will be held at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at the campus pond in front of La Maison Française. Hundreds of children from the local elementary schools, teachers, parents and neighbors are expected to gather around the pond and watch with anticipation as a line of live ducks waddles its way down a red carpet and into the water. This year's event will be dedicated to the original keeper of the ducks, the late Kenneth Moynihan, Assumption professor emeritus of history, who died in January at age 69.
Professor Moynihan began his academic career in 1970 at Assumption, where he taught history for more than 30 years, serving as chair of the History Department for 20 years. He also served as College historian and wrote a book about the institution, Assumption College: A Centennial History 1904-2004. When he retired in 2009, the College awarded him its President’s Medal, which is bestowed upon an individual for their efforts to support the educational vision of Fr. Emmanuel d’Alzon, who founded the Augustinians of the Assumption religious order that guides Assumption College.
Before Duck Day became an Assumption tradition a decade ago, Moynihan and his wife Mary Jo would house the ducks in their Paxton barn.
“Ken brought the ducks to the pond every spring for the campus to enjoy and took them home every winter,” recalled Catherine WoodBrooks, Ph.D., Assumption’s vice president for student affairs. “They would just appear one day, with no fanfare.”
This would occur for 20 years before WoodBrooks asked him if he’d mind if Assumption launched an official event to welcome the ducks’ return to the pond, complete with music, cupcakes and visits from neighboring elementary school pupils. Ken and Mary Jo happily complied.
"Longtime attendees will never forget that first Duck Day, when all the ducks got loose in the Moynihans’ car," WoodBrooks said. "When they turned the corner onto campus, it looked as though the ducks were driving the car!"
In addition to serving as an Assumption faculty member, Ken Moynihan was the first political columnist for Worcester Magazine when it launched in the 1970s, and he covered Worcester politics for that publication for many years. He later wrote a weekly political column for the Telegram & Gazette and was a longtime political analyst for radio station WTAG. In addition, Moynihan founded the Worcester History Group and was a fellow at the Worcester Antiquarian Society. He also wrote a book about the city’s history, A History of Worcester 1674-1848.
A New Hampshire native, Moynihan came to Worcester at age 14 to attend Assumption Prep, from where he graduated in 1962. He ended up staying in the Worcester area, later attending the College of the Holy Cross and Clark University, where he earned his Ph.D. in history.
T-shirts to promote Duck Day will be sold on campus starting April 14 in Hagan Campus Center. The cost is $5 each; proceeds will be donated in Moynihan’s name to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, as it was his charity of choice.
Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College