George Bridges
President, Whitman College

Good afternoon. Please be seated. My name is George Bridges, and I am honored to serve as the 13th president of the college.

On behalf of the governing boards, faculty and staff, I extend a warm welcome to you as we launch Whitman’s 128th opening as a liberal arts college. Our ceremony celebrates the incoming class of students – the graduating class of 2014 – and the beginning of this academic year.

Before proceeding to our ceremony, let me first acknowledge the musical contributions of Professor of Music Lee Thompson and his spectacular organ prelude and processional.

Let me now make some important introductions:

First and foremost, will members of the entering class of Whitman College, first-year and transfer students please rise?

We are honored to have attracted you to our school. You are all high achievers with diverse interests, talents and backgrounds, and each of you has a down-to-earth approach to life that we find compelling. On behalf of the faculty and staff of Whitman, I express our delight in finally welcoming you here. Please know that we carefully selected and deeply wanted each and every one of you – we celebrate your achievements and your new beginning with us.

You may be seated.

Will the parents, family members and friends of the incoming students please rise?

We are delighted that you too have become part of the Whitman community. Thank you for entrusting your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, your grandchildren and your close friends and relatives to us.

As a community, we accept and take seriously the task of educating your daughters and sons. And we will need your help. Each of you must remain – as we know you will – a source of loving encouragement, a patient listener, and a supportive family member and friend.

Let us all acknowledge this devoted group of Whitman family members with applause.

You may be seated.

Will the esteemed faculty of Whitman College please rise?

Since its inception as a college, Whitman has accorded primacy to the relationship between faculty and students. The Whitman faculty are innovative, creative educators and accomplished scholars who understand that Whitman’s mission focuses most centrally on our students.

Parents and family members: the Whitman faculty offers each student opportunities for challenging, personally engaged, learning. Faculty will mentor students in a way that encourages intellectual risk-taking, fosters leadership, and promotes the flexibility of heart and mind needed to succeed in our increasingly complex world.

Colleagues, you may be seated.

Lastly, on stage with me this morning are several individuals I wish to introduce – some of whom will share their own words of welcome and advice with you. Please hold your applause until I have introduced all of members of the platform party

On the front row:

Convocation speaker, associate professor of biology, and chair of the biology department, Delbert Hutchinson

Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Timothy Kaufman-Osborn

Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, Tony Cabasco

President of the Associated Students of Whitman College, Carson Burns

Chair of the Faculty and Associate Professor of Astronomy and General Studies, Andrea Dobson

Convocation Marshal and vocalist for the musical interlude, Mckenna Milici

On the second row:

Chair of the Division of Social Sciences and Associate Professor of History, Brian Dott

Chair of the Division of Science and Mathematics, Associate Professor of Biology, Kendra Golden.

Chair of the Division of Humanities and Arts and Professor of Religion, Jonathan Walters.

Assistant Dean of the Faculty and Associate Professor of Sociology, Michelle Janning

Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer, Peter Harvey

Chief Technology Officer, Keiko Pitter

Dean of Students and member of the Sociology Department, Chuck Cleveland

Associate Dean of the Faculty, Professor of Education, and College Marshal, Tom Callister

As you members of the class of 2014 join our community, you move with us into the future, yet also simultaneously become part of the remarkable history and past of this college.

Whitman opened its doors as a liberal arts college in the fall of 1882 and was chartered by the State of Washington in 1883. In the ensuing years, the college has become the premier liberal arts college in the northwest and a preeminent institution of undergraduate education, nationally recognized for its academic excellence, a supportive culture and an engaging campus community.

Today’s event, Convocation, is, as those of you who recall your Latin may remember, a calling-together. Today we call together our new students, their families and their friends along with current students faculty and staff to celebrate the beginning of college education, the academic year, and to welcome you into membership in our campus community. By calling all of us – students, faculty, families and friends – together in this place we are underscoring a point of cooperation and mutual commitment. You – students and your parents and relatives – are now members of the Whitman community.

Whitman is a place where free and orderly thinking is cultivated, one where every idea is tested in the crucible of analysis and critical reflection. For this reason, above all, it is the natural, and the most productive place to begin the thoughtful and arduous process of advancing knowledge by embracing complex problems, rejecting preconceptions and pursuing important questions in lieu of accepting conventional answers.

You enter a community comprised of individuals from many different backgrounds, cultures and life experiences. Many of you are the first members of your family to attend college, collectively you represent many different ethnic, racial and religious groups and many of you come from families where the financial resources are quite limited.

Let me be clear – you enter a community in which we respect and celebrate our differences. No one who enters Whitman must hang the cloak of his or her background outside our door of entry. We expect all of you to join our collective journey to a better, safer, more tolerant, and more understanding world.

It is therefore with great pleasure that on behalf of the faculty and staff I warmly welcome and invite you to accompany us on this exciting path.