Our President, Fr. Kevin Wildes, SJ delivered an inspirational speech at our New Student Convocation last Friday.
Here are his comments.
Also, I was provided the honor of addressing our first year class. Here is the text of my speech:
On behalf of the offices of admissions and financial aid and scholarships, welcome to your enrollment at Loyola University New Orleans.
You are a wonderful class, and it’s been my great honor to have met many of you and your families during the admissions and enrollment processes. There are more than 770 first year students starting classes with us on Monday and another 120 transfer students. Thank you for entrusting us with your educations.
In the aggregate, you are an extremely diverse class, rich in differences and perspectives, and you’d be hard pressed to find one more ethnically, economically, and geographically varied at any other school across the Southern United States.
Though you are very bright – average GPA of a 3.72; average SAT of 1230; average ACT of 26.5 – the scoreboards have been wiped clean. There are new things to learn, new grades to earn.
Though you are from many places – 40 different states and 42 different countries – you all share this one place in time and New Orleans is all yours. Well, not all yours, but a lot yours.
Some of your interests include joining a multicultural organization, participating in theatre, or a service club, writing for our student newspaper, participating in faith-sharing or an interfaith group. Many have an interest in studying abroad, attending a retreat, joining a debate or PR team, belonging to a fraternity or a sorority. Many indicated that you’ll be working while you attend Loyola, have a penchant for our honors program, athletics, and student government. And, wonderfully, fully three quarters of you indicated a strong commitment to community service and that you would be inclined to continue that upon enrolling here. That’s tremendous.
We are thrilled to help you convert these interests into opportunity.
And, now, in mid speech, I’m reminded of how times have changed for the better at colleges across our country.
You see – years ago at assemblies like this one, a very austere looking person, typically thin – and pale -would portend a less collaborative future. They would stand in front of the congregation and announce:
LOOK TO THE PERSON ON YOUR LEFT AND LOOK TO THE PERSON ON YOUR RIGHT, ONE OF THEM WILL NOT BE HERE NEXT YEAR.
And then silence. This freaked people out.
That LOOK TO THE LEFT, LOOK TO THE RIGHT routine was so universally practiced that, in retrospect, many of us have found that FEAR was often our most motivating factor in our educations.
These days, happily, we don’t want to advocate embracing fear – I mean a little bit of it is ok, but, overall, fear can cause sleepless nights, a kind of mental paralysis, and drain the joy even from our successes because we meet them not with elation, but relief. That’s no way to live!
But, how do we get you from point a to point z, without using fear as your main motivation?
I think the answer lies in the Jesuit call to excellence.
To start, take notice and comfort in those magical words engraved in stones on the pathway to our beautiful library. There is no fear in them – but they are packed with power and a call to a life-affirming, if sometimes demanding, course of action. These ideals of a Jesuit education are:
- Respect for the World, Its History, and Its Mystery
- Learning from Experience
- Contemplative Vision Formed by Hope
- Development of Personal Potential
- Critical Thinking and Effective Communication
- Appreciation of Things Both Great and Small
- Commitment to Service
- Special Concern for the Poor and Oppressed
- International and Global Perspectives
- Discerning Mindset: Finding God in All Things
- Pursuit of Excellence
Reflect on those phrases and how those statements can play a role in your academic career, in your relationships, and your life. Call on the people you have met this week – people like Fr. Jim Caime, our student success coordinator, your RA, your Krewe leader, the academic resource center, the Center for Intercultural Understanding, your deans and your associate deans, the folks in SGA, and the helpful individuals in Mission and Ministry. In other words, do not be isolated. Be a part of a community that yearns, that aches to help you. At the top of this list are our great faculty – who are at the core of everything we do. Rely on them, gain counsel from them, allow yourself to be more because of them.
And then, emerge refreshed – ready to finish this thing that you have started, your education at Loyola.
It will end in the cool and awe-inspiring confines of the Louisiana Superdome in front of thousands of families and friends. Yes, the Superdome, your graduation is in the Superdome, where the Super Bowl will be played in 2013 – making the Super Bowl the second most important event to be held on the floor of that stadium in that year.
Armed with the call to excellence and your own constant quest for self-improvement, the ceremony will seem fait accompli. For the foundation for that day will have been laid in these days and these first few weeks at Loyola if you make the commitment to be engaged with your community, if you make the commitment to appreciate the talent around you, if you make the commitment to be permeable to new people and experiences, if you understand your own limitless potential, and if you make the commitment to push yourself academically and join the quest for constant improvement.
When you arrive to have your name called in that vast venue, you will be fearless, and fiercely empowered, having been fortified by those simple yet vital words carved into stone along the path to the Monroe library. And you will be changed – enlivened, enthralled, and enchanted – by the greatest gift Loyola can provide you, the call to excellence.
Thank you and welcome!