Chair of the Board of Trustees Tom Bozzuto '68
August 29, 2016
Thank you, President Gearan for that generous introduction. And thank you Chaplain Charles, Dr. Gregory Vincent, Provost Ufomata, the Deans, our student trustees and government leaders, and all faculty, staff and students in attendance.
I’d also like to offer a special welcome and thanks to Mary Herlihy Gearan whose kindness and generosity are well known to everyone in our community. Mary, we love you.
To the Classes of 2020 - Welcome. Despite the gap in age between us – we are similarly situated. I know you look at me and think I look like someone’s grandfather. But like you, I too have the great privilege of being a first year.
You see, although I’ve been connected to Hobart and William Smith for more than 50 years, these are the first days of my tenure as Chair of the Board of Trustees.
And in these first days, I’ve been hit with tasks I’ve never encountered before – chief among them having to bid farewell and find a replacement for the best president in higher education today. Please join me in acknowledging our great President, Mark Gearan.
Like many of my fellow first years, I’m still learning the lay of the land and the responsibilities of my new role. But, what a wonderful position to be in for all of us – to have new experiences that test our intellectual agility, that demand that we grow emotionally, and that require us to see the world in new ways. This is – for me and for all of you– an extraordinary learning opportunity.
One of the great things about a Hobart and William Smith education is that it teaches you to become a perpetual student. In my life, I’ve tried to always be in a state of learning. In my business, I’ve surrounded myself with people who are more intelligent than I am, and with ideas and books that challenge me.
My career has been focused almost entirely on creating all kinds of housing – quality homes and rental communities that give residents what I like to think of as a place of sanctuary. As a result, I have been chiefly concerned for the past 40 years with one basic question: How do you build a community?
What makes one community thrive and another fail? How can people use space to increase positive interactions? How do you create environments that allow individuals opportunities for quiet reflection and learning, and that also allow groups of people to gather for celebration and social gatherings? What, fundamentally, makes a home?
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.
In return for admittance, we expect that you give of yourself wholly – to the community and to your studies, to your friendships and to your future. We expect you to learn.
I hope that you take advantage of everything the Colleges have to offer. And should there ever come a moment when you don’t feel supported or confident, a moment of when you begin to think you don’t fit in—and believe me, that will happen for a great many of you--then reach out to those around you for advice and mentorship. These faculty members and the staff here at the colleges thrive on being close to students. Reach out to them. They are here for that. That’s what makes this a community.
You see, we have built a community here at Hobart and William Smith, one of great value and one that makes us proud. Welcome.