The traditional Candlelighting Ceremony on the Academic Quadrangle.
By Julia Ferrante
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell University's 17th President, John Bravman, stood before the Class of 2014 as they prepared for the official beginning of their academic careers and asked them a question.
Bravman, who also marked the beginning of his first year at Bucknell during the Convocation ceremony Tuesday night at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts, promised the newest class of Bucknellians that they would be answering the question for years to come.
"You've worked hard to sit with us tonight. During the application process, you've told us about who you are," Bravman said "Now we ask, 'Who are you becoming?' Such is our faith in you that we believe you will be able to answer this question, in word and in deed, but only over time."
Opening of academic year
Ken Freeman, chair of the University's Board of Trustees, officially proclaimed the opening of the academic year during the ceremony, in which faculty and staff assemble in full regalia, and urged the students to embrace the opportunities before them.
"You now join a family of Bucknellians that is 50,000 strong," Freeman said. "We know you will discover new ways of seeing the world and new ways of contributing to it."
President Bravman encouraged the group of 930 first-year and transfer students, who begin classes today, to face their new challenges with "fierce determination" and to question themselves as readily as they question others. He assured the students that the University's faculty and staff will be there to support them and prepare them for "a lifetime of achievement, service and leadership."
Bravman shared a story about a professor and mentor who encouraged him, early in his undergraduate career at Stanford University in California, to pursue a major in materials science. Bravman had never heard of the discipline at the time but soon learned he had great passion for it. Later in his academic career, the same professor challenged Bravman to look beyond the seemingly lucrative career opportunities in the private sector of Silicon Valley in the 1970s and to instead pursue a doctorate.
"Once again he saw something in me that I hadn't seen in myself," Bravman said. "He conveyed something vital, something I just know faculty here will convey to you, that they believe in you that you can do it.
"Even though my graduate school stipend was worth a lot less than the industry salary I would earn as an engineer, I decided to take the professor's advice, and I am glad I did," he said. "Among other things, I would not be standing here today. He didn't just help me find a profession, he helped me find a career and a vocation and, in many ways, a life."
This week marked the beginning of new traditions for the Class of 2014. Following Convocation, the students departed the Weis Center to the sound of bagpipes and quietly assembled in a circle on the Academic Quadrangle for the Candlelighting ceremony.
Over the past five days, the class has been celebrating its arrival with a packed schedule of Orientation events, including meeting their foundation seminar faculty, discussing Bucknell's expectations of them with deans, getting covered in orange and blue paint at Color Wars, meeting their classmates and Lewisburg neighbors, and indulging in chocolate chip pancakes and eggs at midnight, among other activities designed to welcome and introduce the students to Bucknell.
First-year student Dajah Massey of Los Angeles, who plans to major in engineering, said Convocation and President Bravman's comments reaffirmed her decision to come to Bucknell.
"It really reassured my confidence that this was the right choice," Massey said. "It made me think about today, because today will influence my tomorrow."
Blake Hill, another first-year student from Hatfield, Pa., who hopes to major in biology, also said the ceremony was inspiring.
"I loved the story about the professor who inspired (President Bravman) to get a Ph.D.," said Hill, whose sister, Courtney, graduated from Bucknell in 2006. "This was my dream school. I applied early decision and didn't look anywhere else. It was the best present when I got that envelope and was accepted."
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