New Student Convocation

Remarks of President Richard L. McCormick
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Welcome, brand new students of Rutgers!  On behalf of everyone at this great university, I congratulate you for what you have already achieved: you have earned a place at Rutgers, and it’s already a better university because you are here.

You are, as Vice President McAnuff mentioned, exceedingly bright, richly diverse, highly accomplished, and deeply committed to your communities. You bring to Rutgers fresh ideas, an abundance of curiosity, and a willingness to question the status quo.

Today you become part of a Rutgers class of more than 7,000 students, and a university of more than 50,000. Our alumni body numbers almost 400,000. Those are big numbers and hard to get your arms around. But within them are smaller communities that will shape your time at Rutgers.

You will be part of a school—from the School of Arts and Sciences to pharmacy to business—and within your school a department, such as food science or dance or aerospace engineering or dozens more. Each of these communities are filled not only with faculty and classrooms but also with discussions and debates, with research that no one else in the world is doing, and with the challenge to think in ways you may never have imagined.

You will also find community in the club you join, the service organization you help, the musical group or intramural team you form, and of course the friends you make. All of these communities are important not simply to keep you busy and challenged but because in each of these you will contribute to making Rutgers a remarkable, exciting university that will influence you for the rest of your life.

Over the next few years, you have a lot of hard work ahead of you and important decisions to make. But you also have enormous opportunities, no matter who you are or where you came from. You can create your own legacy here at Rutgers.

Let me tell you about two students who sat where you are sitting just a few years ago. Like you, they were perhaps a bit nervous and uncertain about the future, not knowing what to expect from Rutgers.

One was a young man named Simon Gordonov. Simon was a good runner and an even better student. At Rutgers, he ran cross-country and track, lettering in both. He also excelled in the classroom as a biomedical engineering major. In his junior year, he applied for and won a Goldwater Scholarship—considered one of the country’s most significant awards for undergraduate science. All of that is impressive on its own. But he also made a difference for others. Simon mentored high school students. And he started a campuswide society to help fellow students find research opportunities.

Then there was Justine Del Gaudio. Justine was also a good student who majored in both journalism and American studies. But again it was the other things she did at Rutgers that I want to highlight. She did an internship at Rolling Stone magazine. And then as a senior, she was part of a joint project between the Writers House and the Institute for Women’s Leadership that created a documentary film on women change-makers. Just as with Simon, these experiences will shape her life in ways that simply going to class every day never could.

And for every Simon and Justine, there are many students who have switched majors, joined too many clubs, struggled in a class or two, and took a while to find their way. But that’s part of college, too. The path isn’t predetermined. You have the opportunity to make choices, to try new things, even to make mistakes—and to chart your own path at Rutgers.

Whatever you do, do it with energy and passion. Make every year you spend at Rutgers count. Take advantage of being at this big, diverse, exciting university—not only for your own sake but also for the impact you will have on Rutgers. Create your legacy here on the Banks.

Remember, you don’t just go to Rutgers. You are Rutgers. Today and forever, you are part of our rich and storied history. Congratulations, and welcome to Rutgers!