After a rigorous day of assisting new freshman students unload countless personal items – an annual rite of passage known as freshman Move-In Day, hundreds of parents, faculty, current students and staff gathered on a field near Byrne Hall on Friday afternoon to honor members of the Class of 2020 as they began their first walk down the Avenue of the Oaks.
At the spot designated for the convocation, attendees came together in prayer, took part in the singing of the alma mater, witnessed honorees recite their class pledge and were welcomed by members of Spring Hill’s administration. It was there Spring Hill College President Christopher P. Puto, PhD, shared a few words of advice to more than 400 new members of the Class of 2020.
After posing for a round of class photos, a brass ensemble led all attendees in the formation of a second line, an age-old celebratory tradition that was newly incorporated into this year’s ceremony, and escorted the group to a community dinner hosted in the Student Center.
President’s Welcome to the Class of 2020 Freshman Convocation Spring Hill College
Christopher P. Puto, PhD
Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to your future! Today marks the end of a long process for each of you and the beginning of a whole new life experience. Some of you began this journey by exploring college possibilities as early as your sophomore year in high school. Others perhaps not so long ago, but for each of you, this has been a journey of learning—learning about various schools, learning about yourselves and your goals—and then deciding—deciding about general areas of study that interest you, deciding where to submit your college applications, and then deciding on the school where you will spend your college years.
While you were doing all that, our admissions advisors were also doing some learning and some deciding—learning about you from your applications and deciding if you had the ability and the motivation to succeed at Spring Hill. They reviewed over 8,000 such applications and they chose you. Each of you has all that it takes to succeed in the classroom and to take your place among the impressive people we call our alumni.
Today begins a whole new adventure for you, and we want it to be one of the highlights of your life—not just for the next four years, but forever. This is especially important to me, because many years ago I had a similar spectacular experience right here on this campus, and today, I welcome you to this great journey to your future.
Even though I was here as a student, I still learn something new about Spring Hill almost every day. I am delighted to be back on campus as President, and while you will be finished and ready to tackle your next life adventures in four years, I hope to still be right here taking care of what then will be yourCollege, one which you will be proud to proclaim as your Alma Mater. So, how do we each make the most of this great opportunity?
First, know that you are now in charge of your life here at Spring Hill. Yes, we have some rules we all must follow, but they are reasonable and mostly common sense. While we expect you to be responsible members of our College community, nobody is going to tell you when to get up in the morning or what to wear or when or what to eat or make you go to class—or to church—or make you study. Nobody, that is, but you. Beginning today, you are in charge of your life. You get to make the decisions. I’m sure your parents have let you practice making some decisions, but they were always there to correct things or to bail you out if something went wrong. This is another place where you and I have something in common. As President, I don’t have a boss either, at least not one that I must go to for permission. I get to make lots of decisions. Decisions mean choosing between alternatives, and each alternative has consequences. Here are a couple of important tips for making good decisions. Tip number one: alwaysknow the consequences of each alternative. Tip number two: be prepared to accept all the consequences of the alternative you choose.
As normal human beings, we find ourselves making good and not so good decisions. The good decisions let us enjoy good consequences. The not-so-good decisions have not-so-good consequences. But because of the very good decision that you have already made in coming to Spring Hill, you will have friends, classmates, professors, staff—even a president—watching out for you and ready to help when you hit one of those not-so-good decisions. You are not alone here. We are a community of people committed to helping one another succeed in learning and growing, and you must never forget that. If you need help, reach out, ask. Someone is there for you. If you see a fellow student who is struggling or needs help, be there for them. Tell one of us so that we can help. Remember, we are all Badgers now, and as Rosalie Carpenter told us during her session on traditions at the Badger Connection, Badgers stick together!
Now that you are on your way to becoming an expert decision maker, what kinds of decisions will make your experience at Spring Hill the best it can be? First, be open to new ideas and to meeting new people, people whose backgrounds may be quite different from yours. Maybe they grew up in another part of the country than you did. Remember we have students in your class from 26 different states. Maybe their first language is not English. Remember, we have students in your class from many different countries. Maybe they have a different faith tradition than you do. Remember, over 40% of your class did not identify themselves as Catholics. Maybe their eyes, or hair, or skin color are different from yours. Remember, each of us is a unique human being, different in some way from everyone else. Yet in those differences we will find great strength and great insights. During your time here on the Hill, you will learn that all of these differences let us see the world at its fullest, and from all these different perspectives and viewpoints we can craft a unifying vision that becomes our Spring Hill. Just a few minutes earlier, you joined us in a pledge…a pledge “To become leaders engaged in learning, faith, justice and service for life”—a life that uses the knowledge you learn here to go out and make our world a better place for all to live.
Let today be the beginning of the greatest experience of your life!