MARK D. GEARAN
Thank you, Chaplain Adams, and let me take this opportunity to be the first to wish you a happy birthday tomorrow.
Mr. Salisbury and Members of the Board, Judge Stern, Mrs. Stern, Sam and Sarah, Dean Stranahan, Professor Frishman, Director O'Laughlin, Ms. Marsh and Mr. Gillmore.
Members of the Faculty, Staff colleagues, students of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Friends of the Colleges.
With excitement for the new academic year and gratitude for the important addition to our campus space, we gather this afternoon as a community—faculty, staff, students, Trustees, alums, neighbors-to begin our intellectual journey together. When you think about it, this is the only time of the year when all of us gather together. At Commencement, nearly ¾ of our student body has returned home.
So, I believe these Convocation Exercises to be very important—to affirm the centrality of our academic mission; to offer reflections from important stakeholders of our community, faculty, staff, students; to celebrate our collective enterprise.
Today I wish briefly to address both parts of our program—our Academic Convocation and the Celebration of Stern Hall. I shall begin with our Celebration of Stern Hall.
Less than a month before his death, President John F. Kennedy spoke at a similar ceremony for a new library at Amherst College. In that speech, he observed:
A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces - but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.
Well, I believe Hobart and William Smith Colleges also reveals itself by the men and women we produce-and the men and women we honor and the men and women we remember.
Judge Stern, your graduation from Hobart College in 1958 is a source of great pride for this institution. Your lifetime commitment to justice is exemplified with your federal appointments and professional success.
Today, Hobart and William Smith reveals itself too by whom we honor and remember. And Judge Stern, for your commitment and dedication to these Colleges, your generous support allowing for the construction of this important academic space, we honor you. Future generations of students and faculty members will remember you and your accomplishments.
Stern Hall is a statement about Hobart and William Smith and who we produce—and honor—and remember. Judge Stern, on behalf of the faculty, students, staff, and alumni and alumnae, I thank you for this important statement about our future.
At last year's Convocation, we gathered to hear Madeleine Albright speak and accept the Elizabeth Blackwell Award. It was a wonderful occasion for the institution as the former Secretary of State praised the Colleges' leadership in international education. It was one week to the day before the tragedies of September 11th. Since then, our nation and world has changed in so many ways, and we will remember the three graduates we lost at the World Trade Center: Michael Simon H'83, Andrew Golkin H'93 and Scott Rohner H'01.
In the past 12 months I have been reminded of the importance of community on many levels, and on academic community in particular. And so I would like to speak in support of community and building a greater Hobart and William Smith campus community.
In his "Agenda of Common Caring. The Call for Community in Higher Education," E. Grody Bogue wrote, "A collegiate community must be more than a collection of buildings connected only by steam lines and fiber optic cables. It must be a set of relationships that recognize and celebrate a shared vision of purpose and values."
It is these set of relationships and commitments to our shared vision of purpose and values that I urge our reflection today.
This past weekend we welcomed to Geneva the Classes of 2006—a bright, energetic and well-prepared group selected from a pool of more applications than at any time in a dozen years. They came to campus motivated by the rich history and tradition of excellence at Hobart and William Smith.
So let us commit ourselves to building our community by welcoming all our newest members: first-year students, transfers, new faculty members and staff. Let us share our enthusiasm for their arrival and excitement for the promise they bring to our campus life.
Let us commit ourselves to a level of academic excellence or as Ernest Boyer urged, "a purposeful community in which students and faculty share learning goals and the classroom is seen as a place where community begins and where great teachers not only transmit information but also create the common ground of intellectual commitment. They stimulate active, not passive learning in the classroom, encourage students to be creative, not conforming—and inspire them to go on learning long after college days are over."
Let us commit ourselves to a community that values service and civic engagement as an important part of our mission. With a renewed emphasis on service learning, let's expand our reach and fulfill the aspirations of the Geneva Initiative.
Let's make this 10th anniversary of Celebrate Service, Celebrate Geneva on October 5 a landmark effort and thereby make a real difference in the lives of real people.
Let us commit ourselves to a community that prizes intellectual inquiry and debate. Let us build a community where ideas and freedom of expression are respected. Hobart and William Smith is exactly the kind of place and atmosphere for meaningful inquiry and civil debate. The Fisher Center series on globalization and the President's Forum Series are two of many ways to expand our intellectual limits on issues of the day.
Let's foster a community where differences are respected—where we can all learn from one another.
My college roommate was the President of the Republican Club. I was not. Today he is a conservative talk show host and I am not. I haven't convinced him of one thing. And he hasn't convinced me.
But our lifetime friendship has been enriched by lively debate and respect for each other's opinions that all began in our college dorm.
Let us commit ourselves to building a robust community of interests. From our outstanding Hobart and William Smith athletics to Campus Greens, Women's Collective, Refuse and Resist, Pride Alliance, College Republicans, the Herald or student governments—we can all make our community better with involvement and support.
If you've never attended a dance recital, make this the year to do so. If you've never seen lacrosse played, cheer on the Statesmen and Herons. Write a column, sound off, run for office, go to the Chaplain's Pasta Night, or attend a concert.
Let's build a community where we all push our comfort zones and support each other.
Let us commit ourselves to building a community that appreciates and works to understand different people and cultures. Let us build upon our impressive commitment to global studies. Let's work to ensure that our commitment doesn't end at our water's shores—but seeks to weave internationalism into our everyday lives. Faculty and students from around the world have so much to offer all of us here in Geneva—let's expand our definition of community across the globe.
Let us commit ourselves to building a community that respects our environment and promotes our unique role in education and stewardship. As the first New York State college or university to embark on wind power in the context of this new building—let's continue our leadership in our area with the creation of the Finger Lakes Institute.
Let us commit ourselves to again what Boyer urged a "just and disciplined community"—one in which "diversity is aggressively pursued" and all of us operate within a standard of community conduct of civility, tolerance and courtesy.
And finally—let us commit to building a community that fosters traditions and celebrates our achievements. In events such as this we are reminded of the ritual of academic beginnings and celebration of extraordinary commitment.
As I call forth the Dean of Faculty and Provost, Patricia Stranahan, I begin this academic year with gratitude to an alumnus for enhancing our academic life and a personal commitment to building community in all its rich and varied forms.
President Mark Gearan's Opening Remarks
September 3, 2002