"Students are what make this college tick," Student Association President Alexander Ieronimo '14 told the newest Saint Michael's students, packed into the chapel the evening of Move-In Day Aug. 22 for "New Student Convocation," the first of traditional ceremonials woven through their orientation activities. The next day, a late-morning Friday Mass finally sent most of their parents reluctantly on their way at the end of the liturgy with a student holding a sign aloft pointing them to "I-89 South," as in past years.
Every chapel pew and seat behind the elevated altar platform was filled by a student or family member from the Class of 2017 Thursday night for the Convocation, while faculty in full academic regalia sat three-deep to one side, with the president, dean and Student Association president on the other. On a warm, rainy night, Vice President for Academic Affairs Karen Talentino was master of ceremonies while Professor Joseph Kroger of religious studies lead faculty as grand marshal as they processed into the chapel to an organ processional delivered by Music Professor Susan Summerfield.
Talentino acknowledged the poignant difficulty for most parents to return home "with one less person in the car." Another poignant milestone moment was for Jerry Flanagan, Vice President for Enrollment, who, after a nearly 40-year career "handed off" the class for the last time to the Dean of the College Jeffrey Trumbower with their traditional ceremonial exchange of declarations that the class had been "found worthy to enter this community of learners." Students in unison recited their traditional "Academic Pledge" taking responsibility for their learning, while music professor Nathaniel G. Lew explained the history and context, praised and then led the singing of the college's stirring Alma Mater, "Hail Saint Michael's."
Fr. Brian Cummings SSE, director of Edmundite Campus Ministry, in his invocation quoted the Jesuit philosopher/priest Pierre Teilhard Chardin that students should "trust in the slow work of God." Ieronimo, a political science major with two minors, said in his remarks that if the new students "buy into" what Saint Mike's has to offer, "You'll grow." He urged them to take advantage of the many opportunities, adding, "Everyone here is on your side."
As winner of the 2012 Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award, Professor Vincent Bolduc of sociology was invited to address the students. Bolduc told students he "would give anything to be in your shoes" as promising youth just starting careers at a quality liberal arts college like Saint Mike's, noting that "you and your generation are our only link to the future," which gives them great responsibility to pass on intellectual and cultural legacies. Listing many inspiring examples of those legacies, he also spoke of the immense support and affirmation they should feel from the investment their parents and society have made in them, financially and in other ways – a sign of how much everyone loves and believes and hopes in them. He used his sociologist background to cite international and national statistics demonstrating what a privileged group they are, to be starting college at a place like Saint Michael's at this time in history.
College President Jack Neuhauser echoed Bolduc's idea that the incoming class is bright and privileged, stressing that "college is not a time to drift," but rather a time for "developing passion for a life well-lived." "You Count – we mean it," he said, referring to the theme of a highly visible programming campaign of that name introduced by the Student Life office this year. As in past years, Neuhauser emphasized that their first six weeks are critical, setting a tone for their college career and much of their later lives. "Begin well, and the rest will be much easier," he said. To parents, he vowed that "we will take precious care" of the newest students.