Garbed in matching black robes, more than 300 first-year and transfer students processed into Sorgenti Arena to the strains of Jupiter from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst at the beginning of Convocation on August 21.
The new Griffins were tired from moving in on a hot and humid late August day and from all the new information they were assimilating, yet they managed a degree of decorum as faculty and administrators—in full regalia—followed them in and welcomed them to Chestnut Hill College.
“Convocation means to gather,” began Wolfgang Natter, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, “and it is where we focus our energy on the coming academic year.”
The new students no doubt were absorbing his words, even as they anticipated the year ahead and the new friends they would meet … the new experiences they would have.
“Our faculty are teachers, scholars and mentors in our learning-centered environment,” Natter continued. “You are joining a remarkable learning community.”
Cecelia Cavanaugh, SSJ, Ph.D., dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies, addressed the audience next, explaining the significance of the day’s ceremony and the meaning of the regalia.
“This academic attire reminds us of the long tradition of teaching, learning and serving we observe here today,” she said. There is meaning in each item of clothing and even in the order of procession. “Today’s procession is a symbol of your journey from today to graduation,” she added.
“Of the 320 first-year, exchange and transfer students here today, 56 percent are women,” said Jodie King Smith, vice president for enrollment, in her address. “You represent 16 states and territories and 16 different countries, and you are a group of diverse, talented and caring individuals.”
President Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., reminded the students that special events in life require the wearing of special clothing, hence the robes and regalia. “In the high water marks of our lives, what we wear signifies that what is happening is something worth noticing,” she said, welcoming the Class of 2019.
“The fact that you are dressed alike signifies your unity and the fact that you are entering the common rite of passage that is college.”
She spoke of the College Mission, of the concern for the “good neighbor” at the heart of it, and the goal of being women and men of “uncommon excellence.”
“Work purposefully and diligently to develop your gifts and abilities,” she advised the students. “Always ask yourself, ‘Did I do the best I could today? Are my efforts leading me toward my goals?’ Always use your God-given gifts to the fullest extent. And treat everyone with respect, as we remember that Chestnut Hill College is a place where diversity is valued, differences are respected and hospitality of the heart is a rule.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Connections.