By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT – Faculty and staff lined the entry to the ballroom of the Rogalski Center and clapped to welcome students to St. Ambrose University on Aug. 20.
Msgr. John Hyland, vicar general for the Diocese of Davenport, blessed the students with holy water and said a final prayer and blessing.
Paul Koch, vice president for academic and student affairs, gave them advice:
“As you know, the essence of the mission of St. Ambrose University is to enrich your lives and the lives of others that you come into contact with. Such a mission occurs within the context of a number of core values that guide our behavior, so let me touch briefly on these values this morning.
“We are a Catholic university richly steeped in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, where we embody our faith tradition through teaching, learning, scholarship and service. Many of you joined in with the Urban Plunge yesterday in providing service to the community, and I ask that you continue to find ways to provide service along with the many faculty, staff and students at St. Ambrose who already do so, especially in those areas where we can work toward justice so that peace might prevail.”
He noted that faculty, staff and students at St. Ambrose search for truth in and out of the classroom. “We make every attempt to engage in this search for truth in a climate of mutual respect, honesty and integrity where our actions reflect what we say. This does not mean that we will shelter you from controversy and not challenge you; quite the contrary. But, the difficult conversations must occur within an atmosphere where the academic freedom of both faculty and students is cherished and nurtured as both a right and a responsibility.”
Koch said all programs at St. Ambrose are firmly grounded in the rich tradition of the liberal arts. “The liberal arts are not only a body of knowledge, but also a lens through which we view the world, and they are certainly not just a set of general education requirements that one must get out of the way.”
“Know that when you graduate in four short years, you will not know it all, but you will have been well prepared for a lifetime of learning that will provide you with many opportunities along the way.”
He asked students to take the opportunity to engage with all and cherish the God-given dignity and worth of every person.
“So a first assignment for our new students: find our mission and core values on the website and reflect on how you might fully use these as guiding principles over the next several years; your faculty and staff will support you in this.”
Sallee Beneke, associate professor of early childhood education, gave the convocation address.
She welcomed the class of 2017 and read the poem “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver. Beneke then asked the students to consider what they will do with their one wild and precious life.
“I would like to encourage you to make the most of your experiences while you are here at St. Ambrose. Not by trying to fit in, at least not in a box. I hope that here you will feel encouraged to be different and to step out of your comfort zone and really fly. Use this experience to educate your hearts as well as your minds.
“And if you do, then this education will help you find your way to your next destination when you fly away from us four years from now.”
Beneke offered nine principles to help students develop their own “magnetite” (sense of direction): ask, mentor, believe, reflect, open, speak up, imagine, attend and navigate. “And if you follow them, I believe you will be a successful Ambrosian. So welcome class of 2017. We hope you will fly high and far.”