The Randolph College community celebrated the official opening of the 2015-16 academic year with Convocation Tuesday.
The ceremony began with the traditional procession of faculty and seniors into Smith Hall Theatre. Seniors wore traditional funny hats and graduation robes decorated with buttons as they exchanged cheers and songs with the sophomores.
During the event, Carl Girelli, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, presented several awards to students and faculty.
Brian Anderson ’17 earned the Phi Beta Kappa Book Award, which is given annually to the junior who has attained the highest grade point averages in their class.
Marjorie Wheeler-Barclay, the Charles A. Dana Professor of History, received the Kathryn Graves Davidson Award, which honors a faculty member who has brought distinction to the college. English professor Heidi M. Kunz won the Kathryn Graves Davidson Scholarship Award for her excellence in teaching and her efforts to promote the College across the world. Religious studies professor Gordon Steffey was awarded the Gillie A. Larew Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Sandeep Poudyal ’16, president of Student Government, welcomed the crowd and explained why he chose to leave his home and family in Nepal to attend college at Randolph three years ago.
“This is the land of opportunities, and I am so happy to say that I am at the college of opportunities,” he said. “When I first came to Randolph, I kept hearing this phrase, ‘Be an Original.’ I loved it and still love that phrase. It tells you that it’s okay to be different. It does more than that. It encourages difference.”
Poudyal said he came to Randolph planning to follow in his father’s footsteps by studying business, but instead fell in love with the study of psychology. Now a psychology major, he plans to pursue a doctorate in psychology upon graduation from Randolph. Poudyal encouraged his fellow students to also do what they love.
“There is a place for everything; there is a place for fun, and there is a place for seriousness,” he said. “But no matter what you are doing, remember why you are here. Never diminish the person you are for the person you are someday going to become.
“I would like to encourage all of you present here today to not aim to stand on the shoulders of giants, but to be the giants on whose shoulders others aim to stand,” he added. “Leave your footprints in the sands of time, and lead others on.”
President Bradley W. Bateman urged students to reflect on the meaning of the College’s motto, Vita Abundantior, in honor of the 125th anniversary that will be celebrated in 2016. When the College’s founders chose the motto, he said, they were likely inspired by the words of Jesus in the gospel of John: “I come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Bateman pointed out that when searching for “life abundant” online, one of the top results is the gospel of prosperity, a uniquely American variant of Christianity that peddles the idea that God promises riches to its followers.
“While we can be reasonably sure that Jesus did not devote his ministry to helping create wealthy people, my point is not really to criticize those whose love of money has overpowered their spiritual lives, but those who made the mistake to replace the love of one another with the love of money,” he said.
Bateman encouraged students to consider the richness of the terms “abundance” and “abundant life,” and to always ask questions.
“It is a hallmark of a liberal education that we do not promise certainty in belief,” he said. “We teach you to question and doubt, and to try to leave open fundamental questions of meaning and purpose. And at the very least we try to teach you to leave open the answers to those questions.”
He also asked students to consider what abundance they should seek and to share those answers with their fellow students and with College faculty.
“I ask you to step outside the bounds of your normal disciplinary discussions, and to pursue that question seriously,” he said. “I hope for my own part to pursue it with many of you in the student body. I wish that I could pursue it with each of you. But be prepared to hear me ask you, ‘What do you mean by abundance? And what kind of abundant life would you like to pursue?’
“I say to everyone in the community: I wish you an abundant year and wish you abundant lives.”