Wagner College revived a long-lost tradition this year: opening convocation.
Complete with an academic processional, brass quintet, and the Wagner Choir, it was held in the Spiro Sports Center on the evening of Sept. 8. The candlelighting ceremony on the Sutter Oval, which has been a part of orientation for many years, concluded the evening.
What was this all about? Why revive opening convocation? Vice President for Campus Life Ruta Shah-Gordon started the gathering (which term, she noted, comes from the Latin convocare, “to call together”) with an explanation: “Tonight is about our recognition of the scholarly circle of life,” she said — a cycle which concludes with the parallel bookending ceremony of commencement.
The Office of Campus Life launched the new convocation program, with the support of Provost Lily D. McNair and the faculty, as a culminating orientation event that would introduce new students to their role as academics and scholars, says Curtis Wright, dean of campus life and leadership.
Keynote speaker Walter Kaelber, professor of religious studies, advised the students to take advantage of new opportunities and experiences. He emphasized that the liberal education they will receive at Wagner will prepare them for a future we can’t yet imagine, for jobs that don’t even exist now, and for a life enriched in ways they would never have expected. “Liberal” in this context, he noted, means “abundant” and “bountiful.”
President Guarasci also spoke at the ceremony, briefly outlining Wagner’s history, during which it has gone through significant changes but always stayed true to its mission of training students for leadership and service.
The biggest applause of the evening came for the Wagner Choir, with its carefully selected pieces that amplified the themes of the evening: the joyous South African song “We Are Marching”; the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic of anticipation and change, “It Might As Well Be Spring”; and the anthem of struggle and promise from the musical, “Hairspray,” “I Know Where I’ve Been.”
After the ceremony, as each member of the class of 2019 signed a matriculation book, each one also shook hands with President Guarasci before heading to the Oval to the drumbeat of the Wagner Marching Band. Holding candles and passing the flame from hand to hand, they stood in formation of their class graduation year: ’19.
“I liked it a lot,” said Benjamin Sieczkowski of Manalapan, New Jersey. “It made me feel good. It made me think about the future.”
Sieczkowski came to the ceremony with his fellow freshman football players, which included Sidique Kamara of Columbus, Ohio. “It was inspirational and uplifting,” Kamara added.