2016 Fall Convocation Speech: "Welcome, Class of 2020" | Briar Cliff University
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2016 Fall Convocation Speech: "Welcome, Class of 2020"

Dr. Hamid Shirvani
Photo courtesy Briar Cliff University Dept. of Marketing

President Shirvani addresses the incoming Class of 2020 during the Fall Convocation Ceremony on Aug. 21, 2016, at The Chapel of Our Lady of Grace.

Speech as delivered:

Welcome, Class of 2020.

On behalf of Briar Cliff University, I am delighted to extend my congratulations to you on your admission to the University.

I welcome you to this remarkable university, a Catholic Franciscan liberal arts-based and value-centered institution with an outstanding faculty and staff who are dedicated to teaching, mentoring, and helping you to succeed.

What an exciting time to be at Briar Cliff University! As we begin this new academic year, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy our beautiful campus, great weather, and the excitement and enthusiasm of the incoming freshman class.

Welcoming the freshman class is always one of the most exhilarating prospects of the new academic year. The excitement of meeting young people ready to define the shape of their lives is electric. What could be more thrilling than discovering who you are—what makes you unique—in a caring environment focused on your growth as an individual?

The journey that you as members of the Class of 2020 have just begun will shape your lives from this day forth.

Briar Cliff University is also on a journey. The same journey upon which you are embarking—the journey of self-knowledge. As with each of you, Briar Cliff’s journey needs to begin with dialogue, about where we are going and about where we want to finish. To define ourselves, we need to raise the level of conversation about what makes this university unique.

We all — students and universities alike — live in a world of tremendous competition. How you as students will fare in this competition will depend largely on the kind of education you receive. How we, as Briar Cliff University community, fare in this competition will depend largely on the kind of education we offer. Our needs are mutually dependent; our gains will be mutually rewarding.

I suspect many of you are here to get a good education so that you can get a good job. That’s fine. We expect you to be productively employed. But if you view getting a job as the primary purpose of your being at Briar Cliff, you are missing the big picture. If your focus is too narrow, you will miss the heart and soul of a university education. As St. Francis has beautifully stated, “Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; and just so, you learn to love by loving,” said Drew Gilpin Faust President of Harvard University. He further comments, “the ability to recognize opportunities and move in new - and sometimes unexpected - directions will benefit you no matter your interests or aspirations. A liberal arts education is designed to equip students for just such flexibility and imagination.”

And finally one of the most brilliant leaders of our time Steve Jobs has commented that, “The reason that Apple is able to create products like the iPad is because we've always tried to be at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts. “

Students, you have reached an important plateau in your lives. Now you are about to begin your next ascent — up the sheer face of a liberal arts education. Your challenge is to follow as many paths as you can on the way to the top. Your challenge is to remember that the summit is not a job, but a life well lived. A Briar Cliff education will prepare you to be educated citizens — informed, learned, aware, and powerful in making the world a better place, a college graduate with a deep understanding of social justice, and inclusivity, one who has embraced the Franciscan values.

Members of the Class of 2020, you have achieved great things to reach this day. We are delighted that you have chosen a Briar Cliff education to help prepare you for the challenges that lie ahead.

Distinguished faculty, you are to be congratulated for the magnificent work you have done in bringing Briar Cliff to its present state of excellence. Now we need to renew and deepen our intellectual conversation about the unique characteristics—the heart and soul — of a Briar Cliff education.

These are our challenges. Let us begin with a sense of celebration. Let us applaud the hard work that has brought us to this moment. And let us move forward with grand expectations, knowing that we are capable of greater things yet to come. Thank you.

Again, my congratulations, and welcome.

Tags: President's Speeches