I would like to extend my warmest welcome to the students, parents, friends and
family of the class of 2012. I promise not to bore you today with a long speech — I’m perfectly capable of doing that with a short one.
Our Class of 2012 is new to UConn, but you are new to our faculty and staff members. We need to get to know you. For myself, I was surprised to learn that members of the Class of 2012 probably would say that IBM never made typewriters.
Well they did – a lot of them – but that was way back in the day. For this class, The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno. Caller ID has always been available on phones – how could anyone possibly live without it? You’ve never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about “nothing.” And the nurse always took your temperature in your ear. Where else would you take it?
In all seriousness, it means so much to me to welcome this incoming freshman class to UConn, because I’m still new here myself — just beginning my second year as UConn’s president. Technically speaking, that makes me a sophomore, so as you can imagine I’ve got plenty of advice for you newcomers.
First of all, let me say that I have a pretty good idea how you’re feeling right now – very excited, highly motivated, and just a little apprehensive. I also know how your parents feel, because I have four kids of my own – all college grads - so parents: I’ve been where you’re sitting – four times.
It’s a fantastic feeling and a bit nerve-wracking at the same time. So, if I see any of you out there suddenly tearing up because your baby is leaving home, I won’t think you’re crazy. Nor will I think you’re crazy if I see a dreamy look on your face that means you’re already thinking about how to re-purpose your kid’s bedroom—maybe a TV room, perhaps a study.
Now rest assured, parents, today your daughters and sons are joining a great collaboration, one that has earned UConn a place in the top 25 public universities in the nation, one that has made UConn the number one public university in New England.
The students assembled here today represent the best and the brightest class we have ever accepted into the University.
You are among the top-ranked students in your high school classes, and you have the highest SAT scores of any incoming freshman class to date. 150 of you were your high school’s valedictorian or salutatorian. Over 40% of you were in the top 10% of your high-school class.
And while it is important to give yourself a pat on the back for all you have accomplished so far, now is not the time to be looking into the rear view mirror.
With a full schedule of classes at UConn, it’s safe to say you’re going to be reading a lot of books, taking a lot of notes, and cramming a lot of information into your heads.
It might even make you dizzy at times, but you and I both know that with your talent, energy, and a whole lot of discipline, you should be able to handle the workload, graduate with distinction, and go on to exciting careers.
But there’s more to it than that. What I’m talking about is a sense of wonder and imagination. Do you know that Albert Einstein thought that imagination was even more important than knowledge?
“Knowledge is limited,” he said, “but imagination encircles the world.” At UConn, we provide state-of-the-art research tools, expert faculty, and campus facilities that are the envy of colleges around the country. But it’s all a blank slate without you, the students. It’s the students who provide the spark, and it’s your creativity and imagination that are going to distinguish UConn in the years to come.
Take a look around at all the eager, intelligent faces in the room. It’s possible that someone in this room will write the next great American novel, develop a life-saving vaccine, or invent the next hi-tech gadget that’ll make the iPod look like an antique. College isn’t just a place where young people read the books and accept the views of those who came before them; it’s a place where they form their own visions and invent the world all over again.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “the one thing of value in the world is the active soul.
” We’re looking for active souls at UConn. We’re looking for students who will bring a sense of wonder to their classrooms, who will inspire their teachers as much as their teachers inspire them, and who will leave a legacy of purpose and accomplishment for the generations to follow.
Now, that might be a great expectation, but I’m confident that you’re up to the challenge.
It’s also going to be important to live a little during your college years. Sometimes we need to put the books down and take a look at the world around us. It was Mark Twain who said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
The fact is, we do just as much learning outside the classroom as inside. It’s important to have goals and to stick with the plan you’ve set out for yourself, but you’ll also need to keep your eyes open and to make the next four years a time of discovery.
In my short time here at UConn, I’ve met students who have traveled to the Gulf Coast to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, who have taught basic writing and math skills to inner-city high school kids, and who have hosted their own radio and television shows right here on campus. UConn is a world unto itself, filled with a diversity of people, cultures, attitudes, and disciplines.
There are performances to attend, art galleries to visit, volunteer groups to join, and if you venture over to our newly refurbished Student Union you’ll find a listing of more than 200 student organizations. If you don’t find a student group that fits your taste, just go ahead and start one yourself!
Today marks the beginning of a great adventure, and four years from now, I’m going to stand in front of you at your graduation, and we’re going to look back on what we went through together. I know we’ll have worked very hard, but I also know we’ll have had a lot of fun. I know we’ll have made friends who will be our friends for life.
I know that, statistically speaking, you’ll have gained 18 pounds, or more—which means we’re going to have to book a bigger room for graduation. I know your parents will be bursting with pride at how much you’ve grown, and perhaps daydreaming just a little about what do to with the money that will no longer go toward tuition payments.
And I know you will have surprised yourselves with what you were able to accomplish. From this moment forward, you are a UConn Husky: a student today, and a Husky forever! I hope you’re looking forward to setting out on this adventure as much as I am!