New students were welcomed to University of Lynchburg on Wednesday, Aug. 23, with an overarching message about doing their part, on campus and in the greater world, to build an inclusive community.
Having a theme for New Student Convocation wasn’t a conscious decision, but the message was clear from the opening music to the benediction.
Jeremy Craft ’12 MEd, ’16 MA chose the traditional Appalachian hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” for the Concert Choir performance. “I felt like the first verse was the most appropriate: ‘I was singing with my sisters and brothers. I was singing with my friends, and we all can sing together ‘cause the circle never ends.’
“That verse especially touched me, because one of the things we try to do at the College is try to keep students involved on campus and after they leave,” he continued. “They say, ‘Once a Hornet always a Hornet.’ I felt like that was an important message for incoming freshmen, [that] we’re all Hornets and we’re always going to have each other.”
Regarding Convocation’s unintentional but obvious refrain, Craft said, “We didn’t come together and decide on a theme or anything like that. I did feel that same thing [and it] comes out because of the recent events in Charlottesville and everything coming out because of injustices. … And so again, the same theme of we’re all unified as brothers and sisters that the song talks about can be extended to a much wider population, as Americans.”
During his remarks, Dr. Garren also alluded to the recent turmoil in Charlottesville, Virginia, something he wrote about in a letter to the College community. Recalling this message, he said that “after calling out the villains of the day, I stated the following: ‘I pledge to do all I can to continue the pursuit of diversity and inclusion, open and honest civil discourse, and mutual respect for all. I will insist upon it here at Lynchburg.’”
He also told a story about a selfless act performed by the College’s founder Josephus Hopwood. An Illinois cavalryman during the Civil War, Hopwood was captured because he had given his horse to a wounded Union soldier.
While there are no Civil War statues on LC’s campus, Dr. Garren said, referring to the ongoing debate about monuments, “if we ever got one, I hope it would be a statue of Josephus Hopwood giving his horse to that wounded Union soldier.”
According to Rita Detwiler, vice president for enrollment management, many first years are already making the world a better place. Among the “slightly over 600” new students, Detwiler said, some have worked in domestic and foreign missions, there’s at least one Eagle Scout, and one student works with a theater and music program for developmentally delayed adults. She added that the students represent 25 U.S. states and several foreign countries, including China, Guatemala, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, and South Korea.
Dr. Sharon Foreman, associate professor of human services and the 2017 recipient of LC’s Thomas C. Allen Award for Excellence in Academic Advising, was Convocation’s keynote speaker.
Dr. Foreman said she’d prepared her remarks weeks ago, only to discard them after the recent violent protests in Charlottesville. She said her thoughts at the time were of her 4-year-old daughter and “what questions she’ll have for me someday, when she becomes aware of what is going on outside of her own little world.”
Starting from scratch, Dr. Foreman said, the first words she wrote were, “Our world needs you.”
“I do believe, without a doubt, that each of you embodies a unique and meaningful constellation of strengths, talents and passions, but that is not what I mean when I say that our world needs you,” she said.
“Our world needs you because you are here today, embarking on an educational journey that is like no other and has more potential than any other educational experience to transform the ‘you’ that you are today into someone who is equipped to be an ethical and just, professional scholar and citizen of the world.”
Dr. Foreman also told the new students that they will see the “power of community” at LC, in their classes, residence halls and student center. With her voice breaking, she added, “When we are personally struck, when our world is in crisis, we do not do it alone. We do it together.”
She said LC’s mission, “to develop students with strong character and balanced perspectives and to prepare them for engagement in a global society and for effective leadership in the civic, professional, and spiritual dimensions of life,” is “the very thing the world needs. The world needs you.”