First-year students, their families and new faculty members gathered in Cordiner Hall last Friday, Aug. 30 for the opening of the 2013-14 academic year.
President George Bridges and Dana Burgess, Charles E. and Margery B. Anderson Endowed Professor of Humanities, welcomed the Class of 2017 during the Convocation ceremony. Bridges began by greeting first years, families and new faculty, and encouraging students to join their professors “in interrogating ideas.”
Tim Reed ’15, president of the Associated Students of Whitman College, also gave a talk titled “What It Means to Be a Whittie,” calling Whitman “a community that does things for each other.”
After an introduction by Provost and Dean of the Faculty Tim Kaufman-Osborn, Dana Burgess gave his address. “The Gift of the Sphinx” considered Oedipus’ encounter with the Sphinx as emblematic of the value of learning through the untangling of riddles. “Having a riddle to solve is good intellectual exercise,” he told incoming students. “Maybe you’ll make a leap of imagination and come to understand something in a new way. Maybe the intellectual effort of working on the riddle will make you better at solving riddles. The really important riddles might be about yourself and your place in the world.”
After the close of the ceremony, students and families mingled outside Cordiner Hall. First year Eric Ferguson ’17, who – with his parents Mark Ferguson and Lisa Yntema – had come to Whitman from Chicago, said that Professor Burgess’ speech confirmed one of the most important things he had found out about Whitman: “The academic environment fosters more than just good study skills but also a mindset that is very good for approaching a life of learning as opposed to spending four years at an institution and getting a degree. I think it’s a mindset that creates learning in pretty much every environment on campus, not just in the classroom.”