September 5, 2000
Volume 53, No. 2
Convocation rings bell for Emory Class of '04
By Eric Rangus
A slow-moving conga line of freshmen wound its way back from the steps of Glenn Auditorium, across Fishburne Drive, down to and around the Carlos Museum and onto the quad. And the start of last Tuesday's Opening Convo-cation was still 30 minutes away.
As they do every year, Emory's first-year students, most of them unfamiliar with the campus, marched into Glenn for their first official gathering as a class.
And as it does every year, Emory had the pomp and ceremony down pat. A pipe organ blasted Bach throughout the sanctuary to greet the students, the Emory concert choir sat attentively on the stage to add its collective and emotional voice, the robed faculty mingled outside, and followed the bagpipers in to start the activities.
"There is no one in this room who shouldn't be here," President Bill Chace told the gathering during his address.
But before the students could be pumped up by Chace, College Dean Steve Sanderson gave them a heavy dose of reality. Their attendance at Emory was a privilege, he said: "The privilege of being admitted to a community that lives the life of the mind." He took the podium following Provost Rebecca Chopp's call to order, the invocation and the Hymn to Joy, which was led by the concert choir. "The privilege of not having to work, which most people do not have, and to be asked to study and think instead of work.
"We have a strong honor code," Sanderson continued. "Your attendance at Emory is an affirmation of your pledge to adhere to and to uphold the honor code. There is no room for compromise. The honor code is your responsibility. We defend this student-based honor code. Defend it along with us."
Sanderson discussed themes of self-knowledge, enthusiasm, opportunity and obligation and set the tone for the speakers who followed.
The focus of Darnita Killian's address was what she called "the dash in the middle." She spoke not of track and field but of punctuation. Literally, the dash between the dates of Aug. 26, 2000May 10, 2004 (the bookends of this class' matriculation at Emory), and figuratively, the life of each freshman between those two dates. The time and space taken up by the dash.
"It is the dash in the middle that represents what your Emory experience will be," said Killian, dean of students.
To give meaning to that dash, Killian handed out four tips: engage yourself fully in the learning process; free the body, mind and soul to participate in nonacademic activities; go abroad to round out the educational experience; and learn the keys of self-responsibility.
That fourth tip was painted as perhaps the most important. "It is ultimately your responsibility to partake in all that Emory has to offer," Killian said. "You have to consciously decide to participate and take actions to fulfill your dreams."
Next up was Moses Kim, president of the Student Government Association. The emotive Kim gestured with his hands for effect, speaking passionately not only of the future, but also of the past.
"It boggles my mind to fathom the thought that three years have passed by so quickly, wanting for the first time to turn back the clocks," said Kim, a senior, who was elected in the spring. "As I struggle to grasp the thought that I am on the verge of becoming a has-been at Emory, I am left to reflect upon how I have grown in this place and the opportunities that have led me to the edge of this grown-up world.
"As I look back on my experience, I begin to feel the heart-wrenching sentiments of living not my fourth year at Emory, but my last year," Kim continued. "My hope is that when you arrive here, in three short flashes, you too will experience the same pull upon your heart with which I am already too familiar."
Kim also spoke of opportunity and how the Class of 2004 must seize its advantages.
"Chances like this do not come often, so make the most of this one," Chace said, taking up the theme. The University president spoke of building a community at Emory amongst a country where community values are declining. He referenced Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam's book Bowling Alone, which chronicles the demise of community.
Chace said one of the reasons for this was what he called "a war between two sets of values," those being individual freedom and democratic equality. And his charge to the Class of 2004 was to reconcile these two divergent values and build a community on this campus.
"How, without destroying the wonders of freedom, can what we hold in common be given greater primacy in our lives?" he asked.
Perhaps not single person in the gathering of 1,300 freshman was ready to answer that question. But Chace, no doubt, along with the gathering of robed faculty and administrators behind him, was sure by May 10, 2004, every single person would come up with one