Convocation Remarks by President Lewis E. Thayne,
August 26, 2012

I cannot tell you how happy I am to see you and how much I am looking forward to getting to know each and every one of you. We are starting out together. What we don’t know—or aren’t told—we will just have to figure out as we go along.

You have excellent timing. You have already secured your place in Lebanon Valley College history. You are the Sesquicentennial Class, the class that will graduate on the 150th anniversary of the College. You now have four years to learn how to pronounce and spell….ses-qui-cen-ten-nial.

You have your place in history. You now have to find your place in the world. You are part of a global generation of students starting college or university. A new class is beginning at Indira Gandhi University, enrollment 3.5 million, in New Delhi, India. At Islamic Azad University, enrollment 1.8 million, in Tehran, Iran. At the 316,000 student University of Buenos Aires. The University of South Africa with 250,000 students. Or, Miami-Dade University in Florida with 175,000.

The education you have chosen to pursue, the education we offer here, that is, a liberal education, delivered in close collaboration between a faculty member and a student, is the envy of the world. As the president of Princeton said to me when I received my doctorate, “Wear it lightly, but know its value.”

We all have high expectations for these four years. What are those expectations? An individual experience. You should expect to be treated as an individual and to have an experience different than anyone else. A collegial experience. You should also expect to make friendships for life, to play on teams and in bands and ensembles, to participate in service, and to share living spaces. A collaborative experience. To work collaboratively with a faculty member. Not only working closely on learning but also in research, in creating new knowledge. A high-impact experience. Study abroad, a summer research project or internship, short-term research or travel experience, even a substantive work-study.

You should all expect to acquire a toolkit. The most important tool in the kit is critical thinking. The ability to identify a problem and argue your way to a solution. And then to understand how you got there. To write and communicate exceptionally well. To discern, understand, and respect a cultural pattern that is not your own.

In that toolkit will also be competencies having to do with social intelligence and the soft skills that make for a successful career and a happier life.

The theme for the year will be “happiness” and you will see speakers and colloquia on this topic throughout the year. The definition of happiness that I prefer is Aristotle’s. It is approximately what Thomas Jefferson was thinking of when he wrote in the Declaration of Independence… “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” A free translation of Aristotle would be as follows: “Happiness…is the exercise of vital powers, along lines leading to excellence, in a life affording them scope.” This is a dynamic definition of happiness, one that means essentially that to be happy you must always be doing. The happiest people are those who are forever exerting themselves toward accomplishing meaningful tasks.

You cannot be expected to be excellent without the help of this extraordinary faculty and this talented and dedicated staff. We want to help you. On Saturday, I promised your mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, even grandmothers and grandfathers, that I would make this commitment to each and every one of you: “We believe in you. We know you can do it. And we will do help you in every way we can.”

I want you all to be happy here at LVC. Please do not hesitate to approach me on campus and say hello, or to sit with me in Mund at lunch. When I ask in October, “How do you like Lebanon Valley College?,” I hope you will be able to look me in the eye and say, “President Thayne, I love Lebanon Valley College.”