Connecticut College opens academic year with 100th Convocation ceremony

The entire Class of 2018 took part in the ceremony celebrating the 100th Connecticut College Convocation.
The entire Class of 2018 took part in the ceremony celebrating the 100th Connecticut College Convocation.

Against the backdrop of a blue sky and the iconic view of Long Island Sound, Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron declared the 100th year of academic exercises officially open at Thursday’s Convocation ceremony on the Jean C. Tempel ’65 Green.

In a ceremony that paid homage to the College’s history and celebrated the “beautiful, verdant maze” of the liberal arts experience, Bergeron welcomed the 533 new students; 16 new professors, coaches and post-doctoral fellows; and 23 new staff members.

Bergeron’s centenary Convocation remarks reflected on the inaugural Convocation ceremony held Oct. 9, 1915, and the College’s first pioneering students and faculty members who were present that day.  

“You can imagine the kind of commitment and zeal they brought to ensuring that this new progressive and inclusive community would grow and thrive into the future,” Bergeron said. “We are here because of them. And it is now our collective responsibility to carry their good work forward.”

True to tradition, members of the College community affirmed their commitment to the nearly 100-year-old Honor Code, reciting a pledge to uphold academic excellence and high community standards in every aspect of their lives.

Dean of the College and Tempel Professor of Chemistry Marc Zimmer gave the keynote address, “Amazing Mice Light Up the Liberal Arts.” Using science as a metaphor, he described a Connecticut College education as a “four-story, beautiful, verdant maze” that differs greatly from the South African system where he was first educated. Here, students don’t take a linear path to graduation. Instead, he said, they are challenged to design a four-year experience that combines many different elements and types of learning.

Zimmer, who works with fluorescent proteins, explained that scientists have found a way to use these glowing proteins to study brain activity in mice. When mice are placed in a simple box and given a straight path to food, he said, their brains show a baseline level of activity. But when they are placed in a maze, and have to make decisions and face challenges, their brains light up with activity.

As he wrapped up his metaphor, he turned to the College’s newest students and said, “Your brains are going to work.”

And, with that, Zimmer invited students to “Come on in and play with a language, dance with anthropology, dissect a religion and paint your way through a science. Make friends, find a mentor, enjoy your mind and seek out new intellectual experiences.”

It’s an invitation that encourages students to take full advantage of the innovative education that has been a hallmark of the Connecticut College mission since its founding days and today is defined as “putting the liberal arts into action in a global society.” As Bergeron reminded the students, this mission was very much on the mind of the College’s first president, Frederick Sykes, when he told that first class, “The good that counts is the good in action. Whatever you do, do it beautifully.”

The ceremony concluded with the singing of the Alma Mater, led by President Bergeron, and was followed by a community picnic on Chapel Green. 

August 29, 2014