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Welcome and Introduction

George Bridges

Whitman College

Friday, August 30, 2012

Whitman College
Walla Walla, Washington

Opening remarks

Good afternoon.  Please be seated.  For those of you who haven’t yet met me, I’m George Bridges. I have the honor of serving as the 13th president of Whitman College.

On behalf of our faculty, staff, and governing boards, I welcome you to the 131st opening of our college liberal arts institution. Today’s ceremony celebrates our incoming students – you who will be the graduating class of 2017 – and also the beginning of this academic year.

Before we begin, let me first acknowledge the musical contributions of Kraig Scott. It was his triumphant organ prelude and processional that opened our celebration today.

Let me also make a few other important introductions:

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

We are honored to have you here.  Each of you brings a unique backgound, set of life perspectives and talents, and you will become an integral part of this campus. 

We – the faculty and staff – have been anticipating your arrival for months, and we are thrilled that you are finally here. 

Convocation and commencement are the two ceremonies that will bookend your time at Whitman.  In just four short years, you will be celebrating your graduation.  The time will go by more quickly than you imagine.

Let’s all take a moment to recognize our new scholars with applause.

You may be seated

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

We are also honored that you have become part of the Whitman community. Thank you for entrusting your children, stepchildren, grandchildren, siblings, friends, and relatives to us.

We, the faculty and staff of Whitman College, take seriously the task of educating your loved ones.  And we know that you take seriously the task of continuing to encourage and support these students as they begin their journey here.

Let’s take a moment to show our appreciation to this dedicated group of Whitman family members with applause.

You may be seated.  (pause.)

Will the esteemed faculty of Whitman College please rise?

Whitman is an institution where the relationship between faculty and student has primacy. We are deeply proud of our dedicated, innovative, and accomplished faculty members. They are teachers and scholars who seek to work with our students, guiding them through our curriculum of study.

Our college is known for the quality of its teaching and mentoring – these are the people who have established and now sustain that reputation.

New students, I encourage you to get to know these individuals: take advantage of the many opportunities you will have to learn from their wisdom, to work alongside them, to join them in interrogating ideas and to take intellectual risks.

Our faculty devote themselves to educating you. They are the primary reason you are here.

Colleagues, you may be seated.

Lastly, on stage with me this morning are several more people I wish to introduce. Please hold your applause until I have introduced all members of the platform party.

In the front row:

Faculty convocation speaker, and Charles E. And Margery B. Anderson Endowed Professor of Humanities, Dana Burgess.

Provost and Dean of the Faculty and Baker Ferguson Professor of Politics,
Timothy Kaufman-Osborn.

Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, Tony Cabasco.

Student Convocation Speaker, and President of the Associated Students of Whitman College, Tim Reed.

Chair of the Faculty and Robert Allen Skotheim Professor of History, David Schmitz.

Vice President for Development and College Relations, John Bogley.

Convocation Marshal, Sabrina Wise.

In the second row:

Associate Dean of Faculty and Associate Professor of Biology, Kendra Golden.

Chair of the Division of Social Sciences, Associate Professor of Politics, Bruce Magnusson.

Chair of the Division of Humanities and Arts, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Rebecca Hanrahan.

Chair of the Division of Science and Mathematics, Professor of Physics, Mark Beck.

Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer, Peter Harvey.

Chief Information Officer, Dan Terrio.

Dean of Students and Member of the Sociology Department, Chuck Cleveland.

Associate Dean of the Faculty, Lisa Perfetti.


Now that we’ve all been introduced, let me take a moment to share an idea that serves as a preface to today’s presentations.

Students, your summer reading, Whistling Vivaldi, documents the scientific journey of an eminent social psychologist whose research has significantly advanced knowledge about stereotypes and how we rely on them, consciously or not, to interpet and explain the actions and attributes of others.

Steele chronicles his own scientifc odyssey, study-by-study, finding-by- finding, in reaching a breakthough discovery about how our use of stereotypes influences the self-perceptions of persons to whom we apply stereotypes.

What I enjoy most about this book is the scientific mystery that Steele’s journey pursues and how he and his colleagues, step-by-step, solve the complex and unfolding set of questions they encounter. His book is a virtual “who dunnit” in the social sciences.

In a much less laborious and prolonged way, and yet in an equally profound way for each of you, today you begin an odyssey of your own here at Whitman.

Our college is a place where free and orderly thinking is cultivated, one where every idea is tested in a crucible of critical reflection.  For this reason, above all, it is the natural, and the best place to begin the thoughtful and arduous process of developing analytical habits of mind, a character of confidence and integrity, and the discipline of respectful engagement with others.

The process I’m describing will occur throughout your time at Whitman -- in interactions with your professors and staff members, in dialogue with your peers, and in silent conversations with yourself.

But as dedicated as we faculty and staff may be to engaging each of you in this process, only you can guarantee that your experience proves successful. You must push yourself to always ask the next question, always take your thinking to another level, always view issues from alternative perspectives.

If you do this throughout your time at Whitman, you will ensure that this odyssey – your odyssey – will lead to immense personal and intellectual growth and, ultimately, a lifetime passion for learning. We seek this for each and every one of you.

Introduction of Tim Reed

Now it’s my pleasure to introduce Tim Reed, your 2013-2014 President of the Associated Students of Whitman College.

Tim is a philosophy major, from Pasadena, Califorbia, and is starting his junior year here. His speech today is titled, “What it means to be a Whittie… ”

Presentation of the class of 2017 Tony Cabasco

Introduction of Convocation Speaker Tim Kaufman-Osborn

Convocation address: “The Gift of the Sphinx” Dana Burgess

Thank you Dana.

Introductions of musical interlude

For our musical interlude today, we have the distinct pleasure of hearing junior Ryan Jacobsen on the violin and Senior Kaitlyn McGraw on the piano. Ryan is from Spokane Valley, Washington and Kaitlyn is a senior from Chewelah, Washington. Both are majoring in music performance.
Today they will be playing the work of Fridrich “Fritz” Kreisler, the austrian born violinist and composer.  They will perform Kreisler’s  Praeludium Allegro.

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