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Convocation:  A Brilliantly Hopeful Time!Convocation: A Brilliantly Hopeful Time!
August 27, 2012

I love Convocation -- it's a brilliantly hopeful time!  

David Lebow, ’83
Vice Chair of the IC Board of Trustees

Welcome to Ithaca College!  Our convocation calls together and welcomes new students to Ithaca College – first year students, transfer students and graduate students.    

The pomp and ceremony of this Convocation, combined with the sociable informality of the picnic we will have on the Academic Quad afterward, together represent the perfect way to open the school year.  Seriousness of purpose and high-minded ideals are part of a rich college experience.  And so is having fun. 

It is tradition that several members of the College’s Board of Trustees march in the procession and sit on the stage to show their support for our new students.  It is also a tradition that other than the chair of the Board, trustees do not have an opportunity to speak at this event or even have their presence acknowledged.  I want to break from that tradition this year and tell you just a bit about the Trustees, whose role at the college is mysterious to most people on campus.

The Board of Trustees is charged by the State of New York with serving as an independent body and final authority in oversight of the College with respect to its educational mission.  It is their job to ensure that Ithaca College remains financially strong, ethically sound, and educationally first rate.  They do this work out of love for the College.  They are not paid for their service, not even compensated for their travel to campus to attend board meetings or be present at ceremonies like this one.  Trustees are often among the most generous philanthropic supporters of the College, and several of you have scholarships that bear their names. 

As it happens, most of the trustees present today are themselves alumni of Ithaca College.  They have sat where you are sitting now.  They have felt your mixture pride, determination, uncertainty and nervousness. 

The trustees present today came here from Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as from Rochester and from Ithaca itself.  They made this trip specifically to welcome you to Ithaca College.  Let’s break with the tradition of the unacknowledged trustee and welcome them!  Trustees, would you please stand and accept the gratitude of the Ithaca College community and its new students?

That brings me back to the comment by our Board’s vice chair, David Lebow ‘83, that Convocation is a brilliantly hopeful time.  I bet you agree.  Your first day of college!  You have been thinking about it for years, and working hard to make it a reality.  You know this is a big step toward the full autonomy of adulthood.  You hope your experience at Ithaca College will be a launch pad for your future professional aspirations.  You have heard from countless people – parents, aunts, uncles, characters in movies and random people on the street – that your college years will be among the best years of your life, and you are nervously optimistic that this will prove to be true. 

You have a lot on your mind, perhaps more than you will admit to anybody including yourself.  Even so, I want to add one item to the pile of things you are thinking about.  Trustee Lebow says this is a brilliantly hopeful time.  Please stand if you agree that this is a brilliantly hopeful time in your life.  Look around and see how many of your fellow students agree with you.    

Here is what I am asking you to think about.  If this is a brilliantly hopeful time, then in the next few days please take the time to identify what it is you are hoping for.  You may answer that you hope to lay the foundation for success in future life.  You may say you hope to make friends who will be with you for life.  Those are wonderful things but please push deeper.  You are fortunate to be part of a residential educational community full of amazing people doing amazing things.  You will eat, sleep, work and play on this campus for approximately 30 weeks per year, most of you for the next four years. 

The best way to take advantage of this rich campus learning environment is to be intentional about it.  Live with purpose.  No moment on spent on campus need be without meaning, including your recreational moments, your social moments, and your day dreaming moments.  To live with purpose means to enjoy the moment but at the same time to be conscious of the bigger picture of which the moment is a part.  Only you can decide what that bigger picture is.  Ask yourself today, before you get enmeshed in the day to day tasks of the semester:

“Why am I here?” 

“What do I hope to accomplish?” 

“If, as people tell me, college is a transformative experience for nearly everyone … how do I hope to be transformed?”

These are big questions but you are not alone in asking them.  Remember how many of your fellow students stood up with you; they agree with you that Convocation is a brilliantly hopeful time.  You will have a hundred conversations in the next few days that begin with exchanging names, where you are from, what school you are in and what you think you might major in.  It is great to have those conversations but don’t stop there!  Talk with others about your thoughts, and listen carefully to theirs.  One of the things that makes people remember their college years with such fondness, and one of the ingredients of life-long friends that start in college, is that it is a great place to be vulnerable to others by sharing your inmost thoughts. 

So, welcome to this brilliantly hopeful moment!  You are joining a very special educational community, one that will influence you in profound ways for the rest of your life.  It is up to you to give direction and form to the powerful experience you are about to have.