Ithaca College has officially welcomed the Class of 2019, hosting its annual Convocation ceremony Aug. 23 in the Athletics and Events Center.
Among the faculty, staff and students present at the ceremony, five addressed the freshman class: James Touchton, the Protestant chaplain on campus; Benjamin Rifkin, provost and vice president for educational affairs; junior Ciara Lucas, student trustee on the college’s Board of Trustees; senior Dominick Recckio, Student Government Association president; and President Tom Rochon.
The ceremony began with a greeting from Rifkin in which he introduced members of the college’s staff, followed by a performance of “The Star–Spangled Banner,” delivered by Patrice Pastore, professor of performance studies.
Touchton was the first to fully address the freshman class with an opening invocation, encouraging the new students in the audience to pursue their courses of study with imagination and creativity.
“We have the power within us to look at the world as it is, imagine a different, … better one, and work together to make it happen,” he said. “Each of you is here today because you have incredible potential to do just that.”
Rifkin went on to officially welcome the Class of 2019, providing advice on how to approach their transition from high school to their new lives and studies at the college.
“Cherish the positive moments of your past, and let go of the unpleasant ones while retaining in your consciousness the lessons you learned from them,” he said. “Savor the present because it is so fleeting, and plan for the future.”
Rifkin proceeded to display a slideshow of collected moments around the college’s campus with images depicting students both in and out of the classroom: theater and television productions, mission trips, iconic areas of the campus and the college under a blanket of snow.
After recognizing the recipients of the Faculty Excellence Award — Donathan Brown, assistant professor of communication studies; Scott Erickson, professor of marketing and law; Raj Subramaniam and Deborah Wuest, professors of health promotion and physical education; and Stephen Tropiano, director and associate professor of television and radio at the James B. Pendleton Center in Los Angeles — Rifkin concluded his welcome with a final message to the freshman class.
“I ask each one of you to treat every member of our community — classmates, staff, faculty, members of the administration, visitors to our campus — with respect and compassion,” he said. “Recognize that each one of us has dignity and each one of us has a unique perspective on the world.”
Lucas continued on to deliver a salutation to the Class of 2019, touching upon the ways in which the college experience will introduce them to new ways of thinking about the world and how they can make their time on campus feel like home.
“Use your past experiences as a foundation that will provide strong support for the new ones to come,” she said. “This is a new environment, full of challenges emotionally, socially and sometimes academically, but they are all part of the process. You are about to embark on a journey that will create a new way of thinking, feeling and experiencing the world.”
Recckio delivered the SGA greeting to the freshman class. During his address, he offered his set of challenges to the audience as they began their first year at the college.
“Each of you has a chance to go out there and create something positive,” he said. “Be the engaged citizen as you dreamed of being. Be the best friend you can be. Stick it out through the tough times, be critical of the status quo, and be a steward of the community that is Ithaca.”
After Janet Galvan, professor of music performance, led the audience in a performance of the college’s alma mater, Rochon delivered the final address and closing remarks to the Class of 2019. During his speech, he emphasized the diverse perspectives every new student is bringing to college and beyond.
“I want to emphasize to the Class of 2019 how well-equipped you are for the voyage you are about to undertake — probably better equipped than you yourself realize,” he said. “You bring your own substantial skills to the journey — active and curious minds, passions about the world, even your doubts and yearnings are powerful tools that will motivate your journey.”
Rochon continued to outline what he said were the key experiences college students have that set them up for a successful profession and a happy life, among which were relevant internships, involvement in organizations and the undertaking of semester-long projects.
He concluded the ceremony by having the freshman class write a piece of advice to a fellow freshman. The students then folded the papers into airplanes and tossed them to other members of the audience, after which Rochon folded and threw his own.
“With this exercise, you’ve made your first contribution to building a community among first-year students,” he said. “Class of 2019, welcome. I can’t wait to see your voyages of discovery take flight.”