Loren Marshall '13
August 27, 2012
Thank you, President Gearan, Dean McNally and Board Chair Maureen Collins Zupan.
Hello, everyone. I am very honored to be here today to speak with you at this year’s Convocation. It really does feel like just yesterday that I was sitting in those seats as a first year, exhausted from Orientation, brain drained from trying to keep track of everyone’s name, but excited to begin the semester. I was ready to get to know my professors and finally figure out if it truly was possible to get from Stern Hall to Elliot in just ten minutes. (It is.)
Way back in the spring of my senior year of high school, I remember several instances when people would ask me where I was going to college. Sometimes they would know all about HWS and would smile and wish me luck at the school with the beautiful campus in upstate New York. Other times when I would say Hobart and William Smith Colleges, people would give me a look as they tried to process the name I just said. I would combat this unfamiliarity by saying, simply: “It’s a big name for a wonderful, small school.” Although not my best joke, or not much of a joke at all, I found that it helped move the conversation forward. Soon all this would change.
My first summer back home in 2010, friends, neighbors and coworkers would inquire about my first year at the school with the long name. I would slap on a smile and rephrase my previous statement: “yes, it’s a very big name, for a very complex institution.” After just one year, I had outgrown the idea of HWS as a “small school.”
Because, whether I was ready to be or not (and I like to think that I was), I was quickly exposed to the deep, deep layers of my surroundings. These layers go beyond the classes, the teammates and the roommates. The complexities and opportunities of HWS are unique and I continue to be surprised by them as the days roll on.
My best advice for you, Classes of 2016, is to embrace these layers and opportunities, and use them to the best of your abilities. Take full advantage of the resources in front of you because never again will they be available so conveniently, so thoroughly and in such abundance.
Personally, I have been witness to the Colleges’ intricate layers through the support of our extensive alumni network, the influence of a recommendation from a distinguished faculty member, the interdisciplinary curriculum and the power of my peers. Most importantly, my greatest discovery was the day I realized that the beauty of HWS is right under our feet.
While attending HWS, you are not just here on campus: you are in Geneva, N.Y. I urge you to invest yourself in this community. You are a gift to the city because you have the 3 T’s; Time, Talent and Treasure. Don’t doubt your ability to make a difference for the Geneva school district, the Community Center, the playgrounds, the parks, the waterfront and the streetscape.
I’m not recommending that you go run for Mayor, but pay mind to the little things. You are bound to be downtown during much of your time here. Between the delicious sandwiches at Opus, the inexpensive yet filling breakfast at Water Street and shopping at Stomping Grounds, remember to consider yourself a part of this city, and not just someone who uses it for food and drinks.
This is more than a matter of performing community service. This is a matter of being an active citizen. Take what you love, take what you’re learning, take your career ambitions and share them with Geneva. Find ways to involve that middle school soccer star into your passion for coaching. Find ways to get the environmentally-concerned high school student to be as fanatic about recycling as you are.
If there’s one main theme that I have taken away from my urban studies courses, it’s that the health of a community is directly related to the willingness of the individuals to contribute to the betterment of their surroundings. To help me articulate this point more clearly, let me pull from the immortal words of the great urban activist Jane Jacobs:
Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.
Geneva has something for you, trust me. Even if you have to dig a little bit, you’ll find something.
I look forward to seeing how you use it. Thank you.