Convocation and Matriculation Ceremony

August 19, 2017

Fall In Love

Let me too extend my warmest welcome to all of you new students and your families. Thank you, Leah, Professor Blandford, and Professor Smock, for your remarks and poem today. I would like to extend my thanks to the faculty and student life administrators and various staff on campus that worked to bring you to Bellarmine and that will continue to support you on campus. And I certainly want to thank our student leaders, the orientation staff, the RAs, campus ministry interns and so many others.

I have been waiting all summer for this moment. We are starting this journey together, though I am a slow learner, so the Board of Trustees gave me a couple of months to get oriented before your arrival on campus. I have no doubt that you will surpass me quickly in your familiarity with the campus and all things Bellarmine.

Some have referred to your generation as "life hackers"-- you want faster, simpler and better. Throughout your short life, you have been bombarded with marketing messages at lightning speed. You have learned to filter through these messages and to move on quickly.

You too have been waiting for this moment, and I am thrilled that you chose Bellarmine to spend your next four years. The hospitality and sense of community has captured my emotions. The sense of family that I experience is inspiring and heartwarming. Your families may or may not be ready for this day to come. While your families have spent years preparing for this moment, and are proud of your accomplishments, we all know that life is about to change dramatically for you and for your family.

I loved college and everything about it from day 1. I sincerely hope you do as well. However, it wasn't until my husband, the other Dr. Donovan, and I took our twin daughters to their respective colleges three years ago that I came to realize how fast these years will fly by. You have heard some great advice today and that will continue through your orientation, so I will keep my advice to three tips to consider.

Be your best self from day 1.

You are prepared to be an excellent student at Bellarmine and we have the resources to help you succeed. That is why we chose you. First impressions are important, make yours a good one. All of us experience some sense of anxiety when we leave the comforts of home to come to a new setting to learn and grow. Approach this experience as though you are visiting a new country. Learn about the culture, seek the advice of your RA, your orientation leader, your academic advisor, and your focus leader. Do not procrastinate but rather engage fully in your studies.

Our faculty have spent their lives preparing for these classes, you might think they only spent this summer preparing. This is one of the greatest gifts of a liberal education, our faculty have studied and researched their discipline for years for your benefit. You deserve to get your money's worth out of this experience. Hard as you may try, you will not be able to replicate the opportunity that you have in front of you today.

Break out of your comfort zone.

Dare to get to know people that are different from you. Start today, reach beyond your roommate or the people who are familiar. Sit next to a student that is alone or reach out to someone new. This is a unique opportunity to find out who you are, to impact the community around you, and to learn from others. You can make a mark on Bellarmine and we cannot wait to see the difference that you make. I want to speak to commuter students here especially. Engage fully in all that the campus has to offer. Treat the campus as if you live here too, this is your home as well.

College and university campuses are places for debate and discourse. Bellarmine is the perfect place for these conversations. Please be respectful of one another. We can learn from different perspectives, but that begins with trusting one another and listening.

Find your inner self.

Bellarmine is Catholic in its mission and tradition though it has always embraced all races and religions. Thomas Merton, a monk from the Abbey of Gethsemani, inspired the university, and I hope, the Merton philosophy will inspire you as well. This is such a formative time in your lives and we want you to engage fully in getting to know your inner self, your gifts and your commitments.

This journey begins in the midst of a divided and often impoverished world and you will have many opportunities to learn about and try to understand these complexities from an interdisciplinary perspective. We hope that this knowledge will inform and motivate you to respond to the injustices you encounter now and throughout your lifetime as so many of our alumni/ae have before you. We know that this transformation of the heart will serve as an inspiration for the rest of your life.

Trust me, we realize that you will make some mistakes or even at times close your eyes to the overwhelming challenges. Just remember, it is not how many times you fail or get knocked down that matters but rather you will be judged on how you get back up and learn from those experiences inside and outside of the classroom. This will determine your resiliency, compassion, and your ability to lead and inspire others. We believe in you and the capacity that you have to impact the world in which we live.

You have come to an institution that educates you the whole person, body, mind and spirit. As we begin this journey, I want to share a prayer by the late Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Pedro Arrupe:

Nothing is more practical than finding God.
Than falling in Love in a quite absolute final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends,
what you will read, who you know, what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.

Thank you and In Veritatis Amore.
Susan M. Donovan, Ph.D.