New Student Convocation

Remarks of President Richard L. McCormick
Saturday, September 1, 2007

Good evening, students, and welcome to Rutgers!

Tonight, this ceremony, the first campuswide convocation in our history, marks the start of a new era at Rutgers. Over the past few years we have been working hard to improve Rutgers so that you and all our future students can take full advantage of everything that a great public university has to offer. Well, the future is now, you are those students, and I can’t tell you how happy we are to have you here.

Each of you has gained admission to a university that prides itself on diversity, celebrates discovery, and serves society’s greatest ambitions. Each of you takes your place at an institution that is older than the Declaration of Independence but is among the youngest state universities in America. Each of you has chosen a university whose faculty is dedicated to addressing the most difficult human and global challenges.

We are proud to tell you about all that is new at Rutgers. But each of you is also carrying on a long tradition that dates back to 1766. Rutgers began as a colonial college, modeled on the great universities of Europe. My robe, and the colorful costumes worn by those on this platform, harken back to those days. Think about this. Students have been coming to the banks of the Raritan River for well over 200 years–each generation learning from an earlier one, and each one repaying its debt by applying that knowledge to help others.

Now it is your turn and your time. Whether you just finished high school or are coming back as an adult learner, whether you are a first-year student or a transfer, whether you come from South Brunswick, South Carolina, or South Asia, you have chosen us, and Rutgers has chosen you.  

We welcome you to an academic community that values intellectual curiosity and where you will learn from professors who are at the top of their fields. We invite you to discover new knowledge yourselves through our programs of undergraduate research and experiential learning, and through our First-Year Seminars. I would like to ask the faculty members who are here tonight and who will be teaching the First-Year Seminars to please stand so we can acknowledge them. And may I point out that the faculty who just stood represent 140 members of the Rutgers faculty, one of whom is me, who will be teaching First-Year Seminars this year.

At Rutgers, your learning should extend far beyond the courses you take. So much of the vitality of Rutgers comes from students who participate–in clubs, in student government, in the arts, in intramurals, and in the residence halls. 

And while I may live to regret these words, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. You are not yet the most learned members of our community; that may come in time. But you have the freshest eyes and the keenest enthusiasm. We need you to use those fresh eyes to spot ways in which Rutgers can live out its ideals and its obligations more fully and to tell us what you see. Institutions like ours can be more important than ever, providing they are true to their highest ideals.

Make the most of your time here, and remember that you are now Rutgers. Whether you are here for two, three, four, or more years, you are now and forever a part of the Rutgers community. And your membership has both privileges and responsibilities. You are joining a family that, between our current students and our living alumni, numbers over 400,000. In our sheer size, in the scope of our programs, and in our commitment to face the greatest challenges of New Jersey and the world, Rutgers is unlike any community you have ever joined before. And you are coming here at a time like no other.

Take pride in beginning your time at Rutgers. Take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, and those you will create, at one of the nation’s leading research universities. Take care that your education prepares you not simply for a career but for a lifetime of active citizenship and constant learning. 

We are proud to call you here tonight to this university. We are Rutgers. You are Rutgers. Welcome to Rutgers!

Richard L. McCormick
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey