Class of 2010 SPEECHES
August 22, 2006
Speech delivered by Provost Mary DeCredico
Because of Bucknell
Judge Crawford, President Mitchell, Professor Ligare, distinguished faculty and staff, and most importantly, the great Class of 2010, it is my distinct pleasure to deliver this evening’s convocation address.
I am here today to ask you to reflect a moment on why you're here, what you have come to accomplish, and the caliber of people you will work with both in our faculty and among your fellow students.
As you reflect on why you are here, I suspect that you likely have several big questions on your minds. Not the least of them may be, "What the heck is convocation and why do I have to be here?" But surely there are others, such as "Classes start tomorrow – how will I find my way around?" "What if I can’t get along with my roommate?" And who is this person in front of me in the robe anyway, and why is she the designated speaker?
Let me answer these and a few other questions. My goal is to suggest to you that you deserve to be here, but also that it is a privilege to be at Bucknell. We want you to make the most of it. All of us here tonight – the faculty, staff, and alumni – urge you to do so.
We are together tonight for Convocation to mark the official beginning of the academic year. This ceremony announces what Bucknell is about first and foremost – the student, and to be even more precise, the student-scholar. With you sit, significantly and symbolically, your professors, voluntarily, dressed in their academic regalia, to be with you as you embark upon your life as Bucknellians. Faculty, thank you for being here tonight. It is another sign of your commitment to these students and to this University.
Class of 2010, the faculty's presence at Convocation affirms to you the academic core around which everything at Bucknell revolves. Bucknell retains excellent teachers who are distinguished scholars and committed to service to the Bucknell community and the world.
Our faculty are here because they love and know how to teach. And because they are among the best in their fields, always current and committed to their scholarship. Look in the University library and you will have some sense of their impact on American and global thought.
And finally, our faculty know the importance of service to the community of scholars that Bucknell is and must be.
The faculty will guide and mentor you as you work alongside them for eight semesters, beginning tomorrow. They are here for you, like the labs you will share with them, the classrooms in which they will challenge you, and the library where you will find yourself working together with your professors.
But then there is that other big question: how do I get to those classrooms? And the library? And the labs? You will answer that faster than you can imagine because, believe or not, classes do start tomorrow. Trust me: Before you know it, Bucknell will be as easy to navigate as your home. In fact, it will soon seem like another home to you. You will walk the campus effortlessly as you find your way to Breakiron Engineering, Rooke Chemistry and Coleman Hall – these and other buildings will become as familiar as your favorite places.
And should you ever need to ask for help, fear not. Ask away. Bucknell students, faculty, and staff are some of the friendliest people around and will willingly, even eagerly, help you get where you want to go.
Now what about the other question – about getting along with your roommates and hallmates? It is true, as a new college student, you will face all sorts of new social challenges. But, believe it or not, you will make your way, and become liked and respected for the talents and ideas you bring to Bucknell. Know, too, that you have here a talented and dedicated student life staff ready to help you adjust to this new experience.
Now back to another question: I am the Provost, but what in the world is a "provost"? Even my closest friends and family members are confused as to what I do. There are multiple definitions. I must warn you, one of them is "warden."
But with all due respect to wardens, I am not one.
In higher education, the provost is generally known as the chief academic officer and number two executive officer of a university. I am responsible for overseeing academic and student affairs, so I am especially interested in you as students, scholars, athletes, musicians, ROTC cadets—the list is well nigh limitless.
In fact, the Class of 2010 represents the most competitive Bucknell entering class in recent memory. I am proud to welcome you here as a fellow Bucknellian—I celebrated my 25th Reunion in June.
You sit among students from 37 states and 30 foreign countries. You sit among students who were valedictorians and presidents of their high school classes, state champions in varsity sports, and founders of service organizations who gave countless hours to help others.
You sit among students who are masters of multiple musical instruments and languages, are burgeoning writers and scientists and business leaders, students who have traveled around the world, and are known as the greatest kid their hometown has ever known. Each of you, in fact, has something special to offer – or you would not be at Bucknell.
It is exciting — even daunting — to be in my job and lead the academic program at an institution with such students as you. But I have to say, it must be even more exciting – even thrilling – to be among that class as someone who has earned your own place in it.
The Class of 2010 arrives at a pivotal time in the life of Bucknell. This past spring, the University’s Board of Trustees, faculty and Bucknell Student Government all voted unanimously to adopt The Plan for Bucknell—the strategic plan that will position Bucknell to offer the "premier undergraduate experience in American higher education."
It is worth noting that Bucknell’s students were responsible for helping to craft that vision statement.
Bucknell is poised to move, to quote President Mitchell, from excellent to extraordinary. You, arriving as you do in these momentous days, will be a vital part of that journey.
Why? Because of the elemental character and mission of your University. I am privileged to state to you unequivocally on behalf of all my colleagues here: Our singular commitment is to your education and personal growth.
And I suggest to you that you also are privileged. But with that privilege comes a responsibility.
At Bucknell, you will have the privilege of stretching your mind with world-class teachers and scholars, of encountering ways of thinking that will engage and challenge you. You will have great professors pushing you toward accomplishments you probably imagined were out of your reach.
You will encounter new ideas and different experiences in an increasingly seamless academic and residential setting that will complement everything you do in the classroom, on the playing field, and in the residence hall. You have the chance, quite simply, to start the rest of your life at one of the great places for any college student in America.
Because of Bucknell, I was taught I could major in any discipline and be successful in any professional endeavor. Because of Bucknell, I developed the teaching style that has guided me for the past 20 years. My professors, and now yours, were available whenever I needed them; they forced me out of my comfort zone; they made me work harder than I ever thought I could; and they kept an interest in what I did after my years at Bucknell.
Two professors in particular played a crucial role in my development as an historian and a teacher: John Kirkland in history and Michael Moohr in economics. I believe that each of you, four years from now, and then for decades to come, will look back too and say of several of your own professors, "They changed my life."
They might be faculty such as Professor Artie Shapiro of the Psychology Department, whose research on perceptions of illusions is world-renowned. Or faculty such as Professor Maria Antonaccio, who was awarded a Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence at Commencement for distinguished teaching — she is also a highly regarded scholar of the novelist Iris Murdoch. Or Professor Dan Cavanagh of the Biomedical Engineering Department, whose teaching has made him the University’s CASE Professor of the Year nominee for two consecutive years. Or Professor Warren Abrahamson of biology, whose excellence and prominence as a scientist have led to his receiving millions of dollars in National Science Foundation grants. This is just a small sample of the professors you will encounter over the next four years.
So, finally, how does it all come together – you, our staff, this faculty, at this beautiful place?
The simplest and perhaps truest definition of Bucknell is that we are a community of scholars. We are a community that celebrates learning, is dedicated to diversity in all its forms, and that strives for the exceptional. As a member of this community, you will join 47,000 fellow Bucknellians – our living alumni – who are zealous in their love and support of their alma mater – which, I know, will one day be yours.
So congratulations on sitting where you are today. Please accept our very warm welcome. We look forward to all that you, the Class of 2010, will accomplish.