Thank you, President Gearan. It is a genuine privilege to address all of you today and to welcome you to the beginning of a new academic year. While my speech is directed to all students of HWS, I would like to speak to the first-year students in particular about the significance of today’s celebration. I, myself, am relatively new to HWS as I am entering my fourth year as a member of the faculty. So, as a rising senior, I hope you’ll indulge me as I pass along some advice to you. Convocation, this opening ceremony of the academic year, is truly a special moment because it draws upon the unique traditions and current strengths of the colleges in order to help us focus on qualities that will guide us into the future. Three qualities in particular are highlighted at today’s celebration: the potential to achieve great things, the promise of a bright and fruitful future, and the opportunity to develop a sense of purpose that will lead you through a productive college career and on to success beyond the classrooms, art studios, and athletic fields of HWS.
The first of these three qualities, the potential for great deeds, is embodied in this year’s Blackwell Award winner, Bishop Barbara Harris. As was made clear earlier, the Blackwell Award is a proud tradition of this institution. Today Bishop Harris enters that tradition by becoming a bright and shining example of what is possible if you strive to realize your full potential and do not let barriers stand in your way. Bishop Harris’ life story and accomplishments are indeed staggering; she is an inspiration to us all. I encourage you to consider Bishop Harris as an example of what is possible when you dedicate yourself to realizing your full potential.
Promise, a hopeful and optimistic outlook on the future, permeates the colleges’ community in its students, as your own fellow-students have demonstrated this afternoon. Over the last several years, I’ve come to understand that the students at Hobart & William Smith Colleges are full of promise and I believe that this attribute resides in each and every one of you. HWS is the kind of place that actively fosters the promise of future achievement that you bring with you. Therefore, consider convocation a reminder of the promise in each of you and let these ceremonies inspire you to do your best to live up to that promise.
Finally, convocation points toward the future and motivates us to develop a sense of purpose, a sense of direction. This somewhat daunting challenge is made easier by the talented and dedicated faculty sitting behind me. There is truly a wealth of knowledge and experience available to you and I advise you to make use of it. Seek out a professor, discuss your interest and desires with him or her, begin to cultivate specific goals for yourself, which will lead to a sense of confidence and a sense of purpose that will serve you well in the years to come.
In conclusion, you may have noticed that the triad I outlined here: potential, promise, and purpose all bespeak future events and indeed the future is at the heart of today’s ceremony. Convocation integrates storied tradition and present opportunity to point you toward a glorious future. There is a world out there to be explored and it is waiting for you to discover it – that’s what convocation is all about. So, as you embark on an exciting journey at HWS and beyond, keep the lessons of convocation well in mind and, on behalf of the entire faculty, I sincerely wish you all the best in the semesters and years to come.
Thank you very much.
Faculty Response, Eric Klaus, assistant professor of German
Convocation, September 7, 2004