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Convocation Remarks

Good morning everyone!  I cannot tell you how excited I am to welcome all of you – students, faculty, and staff – to campus, with a warm welcome to our first-time students.

To our faculty, I want to publicly acknowledge and thank you for everything you did in and out of the classroom last year during the peak of the pandemic. 

To our staff, both hourly and salary, I want to publicly thank you for serving our students, shoveling the snow, wiping down contact surfaces and providing support every way imaginable over the last year.

To our returning students, because of you and your discipline, you toiled through the ups and downs of the pandemic last year.  You were vigilant, demonstrated grit and you never gave up.  Thank you!

As proud Golden Bears, we succeeded against the odds.  Your spirit reminds me that you are the embodiment of that great philosopher Winnie the Pooh who said: “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

As Golden Bears, you believed in the power of possibilities, demonstrated your strength and showed the world the brilliance of WNE as a community of learners. 

To our new students, welcome to Western New England University.  This is your new home away from home. 

Western New England is a very special place.  Not only because we say it is, but because of our lived experience for over 100 years bears this out.   

But do not take my word for it; just ask anyone who has been here for more than a few days!  In the coming weeks, months, and years, this notion of WNE being a very special place will manifest itself time and again. 

Western New England University sits in Springfield Massachusetts, a hub that has proven to be an incubator of ideas and innovation.

            The birthplace of Basketball.

            The place where Indian Motorcycle was founded as America’s first motorcycle company.

            The birthplace and childhood home of Dr. Seuss.

Springfield was nicknamed “The City of Firsts” due to its many innovations, including:

            The first American Dictionary   

            The first American Gas-Powered Automobile

            And the first machining Lathe for interchangeable parts.

Building on this tradition of “Springfield Originals,” the NBA Championship Trophy bears the name of Former Commissioner Larry O’Brien, a Springfield native and yes, a Law Graduate of Western New England University!

Class of 2025, you are the second largest freshman class in the history of Western New England University.  This is your time!

As you know – or will soon come to learn – Western New England prides itself on faculty/student engagement, and this is a central tenet of Western New England education.  Thank you, faculty, for making it so!

Complementing our distinguished faculty is the staff team that supports the whole institutional enterprise.  WNE Is fortunate to have some of the best people in their respective roles, many of whom are unsung heroes and heroines in their own right as they work quietly, but effectively, and mostly behind the scenes, to get the job done, in making this campus the best place to live, study, and learn.

While we look forward with great joy and optimism to the 2021-22 academic year and the new beginnings that will unfold in the coming months, we cannot at the same time simply ignore events of the last year and a half. 

The past 18 months have been hard on everyone; students, faculty, and staff alike.  But guess what? You persevered.  You confronted the challenges, surmounted the obstacles, and managed your way through the thick of the pandemic. 

Perhaps a bit bruised and beleaguered, but yet like a deep-rooted tree in the midst of the storm you adopted the attitude to bend but not break. 

You are standing tall as proud members of Golden Bear Nation, and I salute you all!

You should know that Western New England University is a vibrant place, brimming with energy, an entrepreneurial spirit, and wealth of intellectual capital.

And what makes this so are the people who make up this fine institution – each and every one of you – who will help forge the legacy of WNE’s second century.

You come from wide and varied backgrounds and bring with you diverse experiences with which you will contribute to the vibrancy of this institution.  At Western New England, I want everyone to know this is a campus where everyone is welcome. 

No matter who you are or where you come from, you are welcomed here. 

No matter what you look like or what you believe, you are welcomed here. 

No matter your orientation or political views, you are welcomed here. 

Simply put, we are a community of learners that wants everyone to have a sense of belonging and I want you to know hate has no place on this campus, period!

Students, I just want to say this is your time.  Your time to dream big and achieve your goals and aspirations. 

This is your time to create the solutions that will save our planet. 

As a citizen of the world, your generation will discover the cure to cancer, solve global poverty, and travel to Mars. 

As a global citizen, you are the voice for those who are voiceless. 

Being a Golden Bear means being a global citizen, which emanates from Western New England University being a very special place, in Springfield, Massachusetts, where great ideas for innovation are born. 

As President, I officially declare open the 2021-22 academic year at Western New England University!

Good luck, and I look forward to seeing and being with you often throughout the year.  Thank you.