Sacred Heart’s 51st class inducted at freshman convocation

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Sacred Heart University students march up the hill to the William H. Pitt Center for the Freshman Convocation and Induction on Sept. 4. (Tracy Deer-Mirek photo)

Members of the Class of 2017 were formally welcomed to Sacred Heart University at the annual Freshman Convocation on Sept. 4. The ceremony in the William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center was just a week shy of the 50th anniversary of the induction of Sacred Heart’s first class on Sept. 11, 1963. The newest cohort of first-year students numbers nearly 1,300 — by far the largest incoming class in Sacred Heart history.

During the ceremonies, Provost Laura Niesen de Abruna presented the first of the university’s Bishop Walter W. Curtis 50th Anniversary Medals to four faculty members. The medals honor gifted and accomplished members of the university community who embody the central elements of the university’s core values in their lives.

The medals were awarded to Michael Emery, College of Health Professions; Michelle Loris, College of Arts & Sciences; Edward Malin, Isabelle Farrington College of Education; and Mary Trefry, John F. Welch College of Business.

Freshman Convocation began with the traditional procession of university faculty and staff members in their distinctive academic regalia. Following the procession, the deans of each of Sacred Heart’s five colleges welcomed the students on behalf of their college’s faculty and staff. The National Anthem was followed by an invocation jointly offered by freshmen Kevin Rivera and Jennie Valdez, both of whom were recent participants in the university’s urban immersion experience, Community Connections.

Senior Lauren Kalil, president of the Student Government Association, offered the student welcome. Noting that the opportunities at SHU are endless, she encouraged the freshmen to make the most of the next four years.

“Try everything,” Kalil said. “Change your mind. Join a club you never thought you would. Be ambitious.”

Malin, associate dean of the College of Education and the longest-serving member of the faculty, brought greetings on behalf of the entire faculty. He congratulated the students on being the university’s 51st freshman class and offered some perspective on how much can change in 50 years.

He encouraged the students to return in 50 years to celebrate Sacred Heart’s centennial and to share their memories of their freshman year.

“Marvel then at the now unthinkable changes to which you will have contributed,” Malin said. “Take good notes. That will be some quiz.”

During his welcome to the incoming class, President John J. Petillo set the stage in 1963 and the changes taking place in the world during Sacred Heart’s inception — the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, Beatlemania, President Kennedy’s speech in West Berlin and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Class of 2017, you are becoming part of this university community that was formed out of the context of the March for Human Rights, the discontent over the Vietnam War and the Vatican II Council’s call for strong educated lay leadership,” Petillo said. “As with any of those events, many young people made the difference in carrying the momentum forward.”

He encouraged the new students to take advantage of the educational and service learning opportunities at Sacred Heart and to get to know their advisers, professors and the student services staff.

“You may live in the present, but by your pursuits here, you are looking at the future,” Petillo said. “You dream for what is not yet realized. Be curious, challenge and make noise wherever it takes you.”

The culmination of this special assembly is always the induction by Assistant Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Michael Bozzone, who leads the first-year students in a formal oath. In it, they pledge to make the most of their opportunities at Sacred Heart. Each student also received a special Sacred Heart University 50th Anniversary pin.

The singing of The Alma Mater marked the debut of a commemorative 50th Anniversary arrangement written by John Michniewicz, director of Choral Programs. Petillo described the new version as “student friendly.”

The celebration of the opening of the academic year and Sacred Heart’s 50th anniversary will continue with the President’s Gala on Friday, Sept. 6, and the Mass of the Holy Spirit on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 2 p.m.

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