August 29, 2006
Urging them to “seize this opportunity to become the best you
can be,” Rev.
Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of St. John’s University,
welcomed more than 3,000 cheering freshmen on August 29 at the
University’s annual New Student Convocation.
“Tomorrow you begin the most important year of preparation for
the rest of your lives,” Fr. Harrington said as he addressed the
freshman class. “As you begin, I pose one question: will you make
the most of the education St. John’s offers?”
Fr. Harrington joined Provost Julia Upton,
R.S.M., Ph.D., Men's Basketball Head Coach
Norm Roberts and a variety of student leaders to welcome the
freshmen during the ceremony at Carnesecca Arena on the Queens
campus. Fr. Harrington extended special greetings both to the Class
of 2010 and the Class of 2012 – freshmen entering the University’s
six-year Pharm.D. program.
We Are St. John’s
Students packed folding chairs and bleachers on a gym floor
transformed by red-and-white bunting and a stage adorned with
flowers and the St. John’s logo. Enlivening the convocation were
performances by the St. John’s pep band, dance team and
cheerleaders, who led the freshmen in rousing cries of “We Are St.
Referring to earlier comments by Dr. Upton, Coach Roberts and
the main student speakers – John Kelly ‘09TCB and Bethany Housman
‘06CPS – Fr. Harrington asked the freshmen to consider the unique
opportunities they will enjoy at St. John’s.
“I hope it’s all clear,” said Fr. Harrington. “The reason St.
John’s exists is for you. I pray you will take advantage of
everything we offer, so that one day, when you walk forth from this
campus with your diploma in hand, you will truly be the very best
you can be.”
Among those special opportunities, noted Fr. Harrington, are St.
John’s “strong, dedicated faculty,” unique academic resources like
the University’s new Institute for Writing Studies – which opens
this fall to provide students with “special help and support in
achieving excellent writing skills” – and the “wonderful diversity
of our students.”
As examples of success, Fr. Harrington pointed to the
President’s Society. Consisting of 25 outstanding student leaders,
the President’s Society is the University’s highest honor. Members
of the Society serve as the University’s ambassadors at major
events such as the President’s Dinner.
Fr. Harrington asked the freshmen to seize yet another
opportunity – recognizing the uplifting role that God can play in
their lives. “As you walk to class,” he said, “you’ll see that we
have a wonderful church on this campus. It is a daily reminder of
God’s importance in all our lives.”
Making it Happen
Echoing Fr. Harrington’s call to “seize opportunities” were
remarks by Coach Norm Roberts and the student speakers.
Coach Roberts compared the task before every student to the
responsibility assumed by each member of St. John’s basketball
team. “St. John’s will give you everything you need to succeed,” he
said. “But the rest is up to you.”
“I tell my players all the time,” he continued, “when they go
out there, I can’t rebound for them . . . dribble for them . . . or
shoot for them. They have to make it happen. And you have to make
it happen. You have to want it to happen.”
Making it happen means getting involved, according to the
student speakers. John Kelly, a student at the Queens campus,
described how coming to St. John’s brought him away from home for
the first time. Yet he found an opportunity to contribute by
fostering school spirit. He wrote letters to the student newspaper,
met with campus officials and eventually created “Red Zone,” a
student-based “pep” organization.
Bethany Housman, a student at the Staten Island campus, saw an
opportunity to make a difference through service activities
sponsored by Campus Ministry. One year, Bethany helped raise funds
to help the widows of New York City firemen. This past summer, she
joined other St. John’s students in New Orleans, where they helped
rebuild housing destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
“Whatever you choose, you’ll make a place for yourself on the
campus,” John told the students. “You will feel the strength of St.
John’s 137-year-old tradition, and it will become yours.”