Centre College is a place where beloved traditions meet innovative thinking and learning, and this year’s Opening Convocation illustrated the best of both worlds.
The introduction of 16 new faculty by Dean of the College Stephanie Fabritius, the recognition of the 2015 Spring Term Dean’s list by Associate Dean Beth Glazier-McDonald and the singing of the College’s anthem “Centre Dear” set the stage for many warm words of wisdom.
The focus of Opening Convocation is, of course, the incoming class, which was presented by Dean of Student Life Randy Hays. Joseph Hunter VanderToll ’16, president of the Student Government Association, addressed the first-years with a Charge to the Class of 2019.
“Though you are just beginning your Centre journey, you have 1,366 days until your graduation,” VanderToll said. “That is 1,366 opportunities to make a difference and have an impact on this campus and the world. Those are opportunities that may arise in the form of friendships, relationships, study abroad trips, classes, Speedway runs and so much more.”
The incoming class chose the following motto by Dr. Seuss to inspire them throughout those 1,366 days: “Today, I shall behave as if this is the day for which I will be remembered.”
“Be remembered for what you love and for taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way,” VanderToll concluded.
The night’s overarching theme of seizing opportunities continued in the Recognition of the Class of 2019, during which Centre President John A. Roush reminded the first-years of a quote by Helen Keller he had shared during his annual President’s Welcome only a few days before: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
Roush explained, “Ready yourself for your adventure in learning, thinking, doing, serving, becoming all that you might become, preparing yourself, each and every day, for an extraordinary life of work and service.”
Speakers Professor of Dramatic Arts Matthew Hallock and Associate Professor of Psychology Jan Wertz had similar messages. In his remarks entitled “What if…?” Hallock’s call to action was to let go of predetermined responses, a tip he learned from theater director Anne Bogart. In other words, Hallock said, students should be willing to say “I don’t know” and ask “What if…?” as Galileo, Bernhard Reimann and Tom Dolan did.
“It’s a little scary. It takes courage, because, in a way, you’re working without a net,” Hallock said.
“You’re likely to have plenty of voices both inside your head and outside telling you to stop, warning you that there’s no point, or that it’s a waste of time, or that this is a distraction from the plan. Do it anyway.
“Our task is to help you discover that voice inside,” he continued. “The one connected to the great truth of who you are. And then our job is to stand next to you and support you while you summon the courage to say ‘What if…?’ Because this is a time of possibilities.”
Wertz’s remarks, entitled “A Few Things I’ve Learned Along the Way,” featured the importance of following one’s passion and learning through experience.
“Of course one of the amazing things about a liberal arts education is the diversity of classes you get to take. Embrace these!” she urged. “For a number of you, it’s quite possible that one of these classes will help you find your true calling—your passion—even if following that passion occurs after Centre.”
Wertz continued, “New experiences change people. If they say that life is not a spectator sport, well, then neither is education.
“To be changed and inspired by your experiences, you don’t have to travel half way around the world,” she said. “For some students, their transformation has involved much shorter distances in the form of volunteering in a local agency, or working in the theater, or taking an art class, or getting to know other students who are different from them.”
In closing, Wertz offered a bit of wisdom that perfectly summed up the night’s festivities.
“Life doesn’t start after you get your degree. This is your life—today with these people,” Wertz concluded. “Live now, enjoy your time, work hard, think before you act and open your mind to the next part of this incredible journey that begins now.”
by Elise L. Murrell
September 1, 2015