Escaping the pouring rain to welcome the class of 2014, Ithaca College students, faculty and staff filed into Ben Light Gymnasium on Monday for the 2010 Convocation ceremony.
Convocation marks the beginning of the academic year and serves to note the start of the incoming class’s education at the college. About 1,700 audience members filled the gymnasium.
The 11 a.m. ceremony began with a procession of faculty and administrators dressed in academic regalia as the Ithaca Brass quintet played “Maestoso alla marcia,” a stately, up-tempo march with the trumpet calling out from the stage.
The Faculty Vocal Ensemble joined the quintet in a rendition of “Ithaca Forever,” the college’s signature anthem. Carl Johengen, assistant professor of music performance, then performed “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
As President Tom Rochon began his address, the lights of the gymnasium shut off, directing attendees to focus on the video screens onstage. The screens depicted shadows cast on a cave wall illuminated only by flickering firelight.
Rochon quoted passages of Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave,” which likens humans to prisoners chained in a dark cave, legs and necks bound. The work examines the possible outcome for those who can break free of their bonds, step into the sunlight and learn the physical forms that had only previously been manifested as shadows.
“It is, after all, a deeply uncomfortable experience to break beyond the boundaries of what is known and familiar,” Rochon said. “Because your eyes are now adjusted to the light, you’ll no longer function well in the darkness of the cave.”
Rochon urged students to pursue academic enlightenment despite this risk.
“Your education at Ithaca College is an opportunity to break free of the line of prisoners watching shadows on the wall,” he said. “You must bring with you the spirit of a fearless explorer — willing to go not just where others tell you to go but, instead, where your own path takes you,” he said.
This theme of enlightenment and engagement continued with remarks from Greg Woodward, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs.
“I encourage you to strive to the point where your exertion actually becomes joyous — where accomplishment cultivates and spreads joy,” Woodward said.
Senior Kevin Fish, president of the Student Government Association, also welcomed the members of the class of 2014 and urged them to use their college experiences as an opportunity to develop personally and achieve what they once thought was impossible.
“Take all of these experiences and take this new community that you will eventually call home and grow to be something more than you thought possible,” Fish said.
The ceremony also included three academic presentations. These were intended to acquaint incoming students with the types of learning experiences and collaboration opportunities available at the college, according to Dave Maley, associate director of media relations.
Senior Zachary Tomanelli spoke about his study abroad experience in London and his internship with National Public Radio in Los Angeles. Judith Gonyea, assistant professor of occupational therapy, and graduate student Lauren McCullough presented on their collaborative efforts to run the Ithaca Free Clinic. Luke Keller, associate professor of physics, discussed his involvement with the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy for NASA.
“Don’t wait four years to do great things,” Keller said. “You’re in college now. You can start this week.”
Woodward presented five faculty members with awards of excellence: Susan Allen-Gil, associate professor of environmental studies and sciences; Barney Beins, professor of
psychology; Keith Kaiser, associate professor of music education; Luke Keller, associate professor of physics; and Michael Smith, assistant professor of history.
In following with tradition, the college hosted a post-Convocation picnic, which was moved indoors because of the rain. Attendees were invited to a free lunch in any of the three dining halls on campus.
Despite the inclement weather, Board of Trustees member C. William Schwab, ‘68, who spoke at the ceremony, said he hoped the day was the beginning of a close relationship between the incoming students and the college.
“I sincerely wish and hope, deep within your hearts and in your minds and in your souls, you come to love this college, this community and this part of the world as much as … I do,” he said.