Thanks for “the Lift,” Marquette Class of 2017!

MU Freshman Convocation 2013By Bill Henk – Good grief, where did the summer go?

Pardon the cliché, but “It seems like only yesterday” that it was Sunday, May 19, 2013, and I was driving away from our University commencement at the Bradley Center.  After having just taken the checkered flag with the graduating class of 2013, I looked forward to a much-needed rest stop on the highway of life.  The past academic year had turned out to be exciting, but absolutely exhausting, and I had sputtered to the finish line on fumes.

At the time, I remember breathing a colossal sigh of relief as I cruised home with all of the windows down, so I could take in as much fresh air as possible.  All the possibilities of summer swirled through my beleaguered carburetor of a brain, liberated at long last, with no prospect more enticing than the world merely slowing down.  Cruise control, coasting, and putting on the brakes for a while would be a welcome change of pace.

Oh, I knew that, as a dean, I’d need to muster up some horsepower for the summer, because there would still be plenty of work to do.  But surely the load wouldn’t be as relentless as the previous two semesters had been.

WRONG!  I won’t bore you with the details.  And to be honest, I don’t even have a good explanation of how my time and energy got so thoroughly consumed.  But it did.  The pistons just kept churning.

empty tankNow here it is some 95 days later, and the 2013-14 school year is officially upon us — marked by the Freshman Convocation last evening at the McGuire Center.  So, what’s the problem?  Trust me, the very last thing you want to be feeling as an academic dean with classes just a few days away is that your engine has stalled and your gas tank is empty.

Putting on my cap and gown before the event usually ignites me.  Not this time.  Spending time with my valued administrative colleagues as we gather for the procession usually revs me up, too.  That helped some, but I still wasn’t ready to put pedal to the metal.

Well, lo and behold, once underway, the Convocation gave me just the jump-start and high-octane fill-up that I needed.  The ceremony flowed beautifully, and highlights included fine remarks from our keynote speaker, Chitra Divkaruni, author of our Freshman Reading Program selection, One Amazing Thing, and a characteristically thoughtful and inspiring address by President Scott Pilarz. Society of Jesus.

However, what most sparked my imagination and fueled my motivation for the school year ahead came from the freshman class itself.  (Fittingly, and maybe eerily, there are exactly 2013 of them in this particular year, and it will be downright freaky if the class, through attrition and transfers, somehow ends up with four more by the time they graduate in 2017).

But I digress.

Fact is, it was the vitality, exuberance, energy, hopefulness, and promise of the freshman class that charged my battery and put me in overdrive.  Just looking into their faces did the trick.  Thanks to them I’m cranked up and firing on all cylinders again.

For the record, I had welcomed our College of Education freshmen with an email message earlier in the week, and encouraged them to cheer heartily when they were acknowledged in the ceremony.  I cautioned them that we’d be heavily outnumbered by students in the other Colleges.   Thoroughly undeterred, WOW, did they ever deliver!  These future teachers made a definitive statement.  They would be a force.

dragsterTo sum up, let’s just say that it was a VERY proud moment for me as their dean, and this old Marquette blue and gold dragster looks forward to “taking the green flag” with our freshman class on our next four years together.

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