University of Vermont

Academic Ceremonies - Convocation

Convocation Welcome A John Bramley

Welcoming Comments for Convocation 2006

A. John Bramley, Professor of Animal Science
Acting President of the University of Vermont

Governor Douglas, Chair Lisman, distinguished guests, trustees, governance leaders, faculty, staff and students of the University of Vermont. Good afternoon and welcome to the 2006-2007 convocation of the University of Vermont. I did not expect to be here today.

Or – allow me to clarify -- I did not expect to be on this stage in front of you. I expected to be sitting quite comfortably (well that may be an exaggeration) in the pews among you – no longer a provost, certainly not an acting president, but as a professor of animal sciences.

I did not expect to be up here today, but in life the unexpected happens. As so many of you know, our president and my friend and colleague Daniel Mark Fogel suffered a bout of acute pancreatitis that landed him in the hospital and required the unimaginable namely – that Dan step back, slow down, and give himself time to heal.

By serving as acting president, I’m grateful to help my friends Dan and Rachel during this challenging chapter in their lives. I’m also pleased that I’ve had the opportunity to step back into Waterman, work with old and dear friends and colleagues, with our new Provost John Hughes, and lend a hand with a seamless transition and the continued progress of the University of Vermont.

It won’t be long until President Fogel returns to his office at the end of the hallway and I return to my path. Barring the unexpected, I hope to join you in the pews next year.

We meet the opening of a new academic year with minds full of great expectations, but -- perhaps just as importantly -- we must approach a new year as students and educators with hearts open to the unexpected.

There are some things we know. We know, for instance, that there are 37 students enrolled in Allan Strong’s “Principles of Wildlife Management” course. We know that you’ll be required to read The Sun Also Rises, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, The Catcher in the Rye, The Company She Keeps, and four other books if you are enrolled in Sean Witter’s section of English 166, the Modern American Novel. We know -- from hard experience we know -- that it’s very tough to find a parking place in the Votey lot after 9 a.m. We know that Tim Bothwell will coach his first game as UVM’s new women’s hockey coach on Friday, September 29, at Clarkson University. We know that 2,138 first-year students moved onto campus last Friday. And we know the last day of finals for the fall semester is December 15.

These things -- and quite a few others, I suspect -- we know. What lies among the things we know, is the unexpected, the surprises and the mysteries. Indeed, these mysteries are some of the greatest rewards of higher education, of our lives at the University of Vermont.

Buried among those now anonymous names on your course list, which will be the student who catches fire and reminds you what a privilege it is to be a teacher? Among the volumes on that daunting reading list, which book will be the one that forever changes the way you perceive yourself and this world? Who will be the athlete to score the basket, make the save, or win the race with an effort that thrills and unites our campus, our community, and our state? Who, among all those unfamiliar faces you share a residence hall with today, will emerge next week as a first-year friend and grow into a lifelong friend?

A university is a community of scientists, scholars, artists, students dedicated to the study and creation of knowledge. That pursuit requires the courage to face the unknown and the unexpected every time we step into the classroom, the studio, or the lab. To say we’re well-versed in and quite comfortable with the unknown is an understatement. Quite simply, meeting the unexpected, facing it with the best our hearts and minds can offer, and moving forward is what we do.

Finally, and while I address this most directly to our students it is important for all of us, dream and have the courage to try and follow those dreams and make them your reality. You have already come a long way. Some of you have already overcome great difficulties in your and your families lives. You know that obstacles can be overcome. Sometimes they can be scrambled over at the first attempt but other times you will fail. When you fail pick yourselves up and try again. What I am trying to say was well put by President Benjamin Mayes of Morehouse College, a distinguished leader and academic

The tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn't a calamity to die with dreams unfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not disgrace to not reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure, but low aim, is a sin.

Welcome to the 2006-2007 academic year at the University of Vermont.

Now, it’s my privilege to introduce the speaker for today’s University of Vermont Convocation Address. Our Provost John M. Hughes is new to UVM, but he is a veteran academic and administrative leader. I am also delighted that John’s spouse Susan has also joined as professor in our School of Business Administration. Provost Hughes served for 25 years on the faculty at Miami University, where he progressed through the ranks as a professor of geology and later moved into administrative roles. As a researcher, Provost Hughes has focused upon minerals and geologic education, among other interests. He has published three books and authored or co-authored numerous papers.

John Hughes earned his bachelor’s degree at Franklin and Marshall College, then went on to study for his master’s and doctorate at Dartmouth College. He is always quick to temper this indiscretion with the fact that he lived on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River during his years of study in Hanover.

Please join me in welcoming Provost John Hughes in his return to our beautiful state and his arrival at the University of Vermont.

Last modified August 30 2006 07:30 PM