The Hobart and William Smith academic year officially kicked off on Monday with Convocation, bringing together students, faculty, staff and alums on Stern Lawn to reflect on the values of the Colleges. The ceremony began with the traditional bagpipe-led processional and the lawn was lined by 102 flags representing the nations and territories from which the Colleges’ students and faculty hail and where they travel through off-campus programs.
Here’s what the speakers said:
President Mark D. Gearan: “To the Classes of 2020: the beginning that you commence today flows from a long and proud heritage. Take advantage of every day here, take advantage of every faculty and staff member here, who are here for you. And take advantage of our web of alums and parents who are dedicated to your success, for this is a very special place and you will make it an even better place.”
Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin Dr. Gregory J. Vincent ’83 delivered the keynote address: : “You are provided an invaluable gift at the Colleges – a very advantageous faculty-to-student ratio. Get to know your professors on a more personal level, interact with them, ask questions, develop relationships, offer to take them out to coffee. Your professors could teach anywhere, but they chose to be here for a very important reason – you inspire them.”
Chair of the Board of Trustees Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68: “What I’ve found is that space – and place – do matter. Fortunately, here on the shore of Seneca Lake, you have entered a space and a place that will value you, that will give you the tools to succeed in whatever academic pursuit and career you can imagine, that will challenge you and support you. This is an environment and a community – a home – where your talents can shine.”
Professor of Geoscience Nan Crystal Arens, the recipient of the 2015-2016 Faculty Prize for Scholarship: “You are here to transform. Some of those folks you looked at earlier are going to blow your mind wide open if you let them- you won’t see the world the same way again. If you take the chance on study abroad, you won’t return the same person, guaranteed. If you get involved -in sports, in clubs, in service, in leadership, in the arts, in activism, you will meet people who will help you discover passion you don’t know that you have. If you try research, you may discover something that changes how we all look at the world.Are you ready to transform? … We can’t wait to see who you will become.
Student Trustee Sydney Gomez ’17: “I encourage you to admit to what you do not know or do not understand, to be able to say I need help because there will always be someone here for you. I’m here to help you.”
Student Trustee Zachary Grattan ’17:”You may not know yet what your role will be here, but be assured; you will contribute to this place. With you, the experience of this place will be decidedly changed for those around you.”
In closing, Gearan reflected on the significance of home, evoking the legacy of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the U.S. to receive a medical degree, earning it from Geneva Medical College, a predecessor of Hobart College. “Take inspiration and example from her hard work and perseverance. And recall the words that are engraved at the base of the sculpture for they were written from Geneva in 1847.”
Blackwell wrote, “I cannot but congratulate myself on having found at last the right place for my beginning.”