‘A Transformative Adventure’

The College’s faculty and staff welcomed the newest members of the Kenyon community at Opening Convocation.

By David Hoyt ’14

On Sunday, Aug. 21, Kenyon welcomed first-year and transfer students to Gambier in the College’s annual Opening Convocation ceremony, held on the Lowry Center’s Toan Track. 

After processing past Kenyon’s assembled faculty, new students were welcomed by Chaplain Rachel Kessler ’04 and by Acting President Jeff Bowman, assuming salutatory duties while President Sean Decatur is on a semester-long sabbatical. “We cheerfully welcome this cohort to our campus and to the Kenyon community,” Bowman said as he invited Gambier’s newest residents to take the first steps in “a transformative intellectual and personal adventure.” 

Vice President for Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Diane Anci introduced the incoming class, highlighting the “intelligence, kindness and creativity” of a cohort drawn from nearly 40 states and 20 countries. “My colleagues and I took inspiration from your optimism and your good cheer,” Anci said. “We were humbled by what you accomplished and touched by the ways you’ve grown into important roles and responsibilities.” 

“You are thoughtful, motivated, hard-working, and imaginative people, and you have arrived at a challenging and supportive place.”

Jeff Bowman
Acting President

After James Finn ’70 welcomed students on behalf of Kenyon’s Board of Trustees, Acting Provost Sheryl Hemkin described what to expect from the College’s academic program and faculty, whom Hemkin called “distinguished, imaginative, and pathbreaking scholars and artists that have earned reputations beyond Gambier for their rigor, creativity and eloquence.”

“You will learn a lot in the studio or lab, in the classroom, in the residence hall, and in the community. There is a synergy, a force multiplier, a value added when we get involved and work together,” Hemkin said. “In total, these academic opportunities and challenges will help you develop the skills and acumen that will be needed as you go forward and work on the important and complex questions and problems that face the world and all who inhabit it.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Celestino Limas spoke to the anxiety felt by both students and family members at this moment of transition, but reassured the audience of Kenyon’s commitment to the best interests of every student. “There will be times when what is best for them is not always what is easy or convenient, but rather hard to achieve and complex; we stand ready to meet those moments with your student, because the value of what comes on the other side of that is what makes this journey worthwhile,” Limas said. “I stand here today to remind you that your students are brave and they are ready, so let that feeling of pride envelop you today, as they are gifts you are giving to the world.” 

Representing the sophomores, juniors and seniors who will serve as friends, classmates and mentors to the Class of 2026 and transfer students, Student Council President Ubongabasi Asuquo ’23 expressed enthusiasm at “the prospect of getting to know you and supporting you while you navigate this experience.” The biology major and anthropology minor from Akwa-Ibom, Nigeria, assured the audience that they would find “much to love about life on the Hill,” and challenged them to “do hard things and to push yourself, within reason.”

Prior to a closing benediction by Chaplain Marc Bragin, Bowman returned to the lectern to provide closing remarks. Drawing on his background as a historian, Bowman spoke on “the history of giving advice to college students,” finding that while some of the pointers offered at Kenyon in 1922 are clearly “outmoded, medically misguided and just plain nutty,” there was still value to be found in century-old tips “encouraging good sportsmanship, rejecting class privilege, learning from classmates, the shared joy of voices raised in song.” 

Bowman concluded with a warning about the perils of too much advice. “You are thoughtful, motivated, hard-working, and imaginative people, and you have arrived at a challenging and supportive place. You don’t need advice about everything,” he said. “Many difficult things you can figure out without the assistance of people in purple regalia. So, my advice is this: think about what sorts of advice you want and need, and ask for it.”

Click here to access a recording of the 2022 Opening Convocation ceremony.