Opening the Academic Year
Whitman College Convocation 
August 28, 2015
Kathleen M. Murray

The final ceremonial piece of this convocation is the official opening of the academic year. You explored many institutions before deciding Whitman would be your home for the next several years. Then you waited months for this day to arrive, and now you are here. Professor Elliott has urged you to "claim your education and invest your diploma with meaning." Jack Percival wants you to take advantage of all the opportunities that Whitman has to offer while also giving back to the community of which you are now a very important part. I suggest that you make time, regularly, to reflect on the personal narrative you are creating throughout these next years. Explore multiple paths in order to identify your passion, seek out advice from different perspectives (faculty, staff, other students, alumni, family, friends) about how best to pursue that passion, choose your major to support that passion, and figure out what other courses will broaden your insights both within and beyond that passion. Recognize that your passion will likely take you in many different directions throughout your life. As an undergraduate, I knew my passion was the piano, but I came to realize over time that my focus would be on education. That passion for education has been at the center of every decision I've made about my career path, and it has taken me in some wonderful directions. I am confident that you will have an equally compelling narrative to share if you take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities this place, this community, has to offer.

Now, as is our tradition at Whitman, my final message is to give you your first homework assignments for the year. There are three:

  1. Tomorrow morning, come prepared to register for classes at your appointed time.
  2. Tomorrow afternoon, you will attend a gathering led by three of our faculty as they discuss the summer reading, Brother, I'm Dying. Afterward, you will discuss this text in groups with your resident advisors and student academic advisors.  
  3. When classes begin next week, you should come to your ENCOUNTERS section on Wednesday having read the Preface and Chapters 1-4 of Volume I of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

And now, with great pleasure, on this 28th day of August, 2015, I declare Whitman College officially open for the 134th academic year.

Before we depart, I want to invite you to a reception outside on the Cordiner Lawn. Please join me there.