Members of the SUNY New Paltz community gathered on Aug. 24, 2018, for the fall Convocation tradition, welcoming an historic incoming class of more than 2,000 new first-year and transfer students.
“At New Paltz – and at other colleges and universities across the nation – convocation sets the rhythm for the year,” said President Donald P. Christian.
“Convocations reaffirm the importance of learning, discovery and creation – and the special wonder of engaging in the collaborative work between teachers – our faculty – and learners. Convocations ground academic communities in our basic values, uniting us in shared purpose even if during the year ahead we pursue diverse ideas and paths. Convocation also marks the end of summer, which always feels out of balance with so many students and faculty away. Today, things feel right again, with a sense of readiness to take on the challenges of a new year.”
Hundreds of new students packed into the Athletic & Wellness Center for the annual event, greeted on their way in by faculty, staff and alumni whose relationships with SUNY New Paltz extends decades into the past.
“New Paltz alum are everywhere – we are leaders in business, finance, law and government, we are actors, singers, writers and authors, we are engineers, scientists and doctors, and we are always willing to lend a supportive hand to our comrades in orange and blue!” said Keisha Parker ’00 (Black Studies), who delivered the alumni welcome.
The student welcome was delivered by Isabelle Hayes ’19 (Political Science; Communication Studies), who used the opportunity to reminisce on her own first days at the College.
“When I was a first-year, sitting up there on the bleachers at my Convocation, I couldn’t have imagined all of the things I would end up accomplishing,” Hayes said. “Do not underestimate yourselves. You are capable of so much – you just have to put yourself out there. College is a time to discover who you are, explore new topics and ideas, and find your passions. If you embrace this experience fully, I think you will enjoy it.”
Serving as Faculty Grand Marshal for Convocation 2018 was Myra Mimlitsch-Gray, professor of art and head of the Metal Program. Mimlitsch-Gray shared her unique insight into the creation and meaning of the institutional mace and chain of office, borne by members of the faculty at every Convocation and Commencement ceremony since its creation in 1981 by the late Professor Emeritus, Kurt J. Matzdorf.
“This mace is made of silver, gold, rosewood, and acrylic – that’s right, plastic – a material that could be considered avant-garde at the time, maybe even heretical, in the context of such a proper, precious object. Kurt used plastic, because he wanted this mace to reflect the technological advancements that the college was making at that time, even then. He’d be surprised to see how far we’ve come!”
Following the formal welcome, Convocation participants young and old joined outside the Athletic & Wellness Center for a barbeque picnic, the first of many opportunities to get to know one another as members of the SUNY New Paltz living and learning community.