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Convocation begins new fall term on first day of classes; Class of 2023 is welcomed

Written by St. Andrews

St. Andrews, a branch of Webber International University, held their opening Convocation on Aug. 27 as a campus wide and community gathering on the first day of classes and kicked off the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year. Harris Courts was filled with new students marching in, surrounded by hundreds of returning students, faculty, staff and community members.

Students began assembling in front of Belk led by Pipe Major Bill Caudill and escorted by St. Andrews ​Marshal Dr. David Herr, Academic Dean Dr. Edna Ann Loftus, Mr. Loren Cornish, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Paul Baldasare Jr, Campus President.

Dr. Herr declared the Convocation to be in order.  The Rev. Dr. James R. Henery, Director of Communications and University Chaplain, led the invocation.  Dr. Loftus welcomed the students and community.

Student Government Association President Nathaniel Rivas-Blackwell ‘20 spoke to his classmates about being responsible for representing not only the graduating class of 2020, but also the entire student body as a whole in meetings with faculty, staff and community members. “We have a great team of people in SGA that have the ability to see problems as more than just areas for complaints and criticism, but instead as opportunities to get involved in their community and help bring positive change to it as well.”  He listed his goals for the years as renovating Farrago, developing a mentor program that visits Scotland High and local middle schools to help encourage further education and pursuit of personal goals, and increasing St. Andrews presence in the Laurinburg community through community service and sponsorships opportunities with local businesses.

Dr. Loftus introduced the speaker, St. Andrews Campus President Paul Baldasare Jr. ‘17, as one who has thoroughly invested himself in the life of St. Andrews.  Mr. Baldasare graduated with Honors from St. Andrews Presbyterian College in 1977 and went on to receive his J. D. degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Law, 1980. After a career in law and higher education, he returned in 1997 to St. Andrews to serve as Vice President for Institutional Advancement (1997-2006) and was then chosen as President of St. Andrews in January 2007 and continues in that office today.

In his convocation speech titled “Lean In,” Mr. Baldasare began with, “I read recently that the poet and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Mary Oliver, offered up real inspiration in her instructions for going to college and living a life when she wrote “Pay Attention, Be Astonished, Talk about it!”  Not bad advice if you ask me!  Well, whatever the advice you received, if you are like I was when I left home to attend St. Andrews way back in 1973, you probably nodded to your parents that you understood, quickly changed the conversation, and said confidently to yourself—I’ve got this covered!  I know exactly what I need to do.  As many times over the years as I’ve welcomed students to St. Andrews, I’ve sworn to myself not to pile on and give advice.  But this year, I ask you to indulge me and let me give some slightly different advice based on 30 years of working in higher education with most of those years here at St. Andrews.”

Focusing on his title, Mr. Baldasare continued with: “Committing passionately is not passive.  It requires you to actively “lean in” to the experience, in short putting more of yourself into those activities and concerns than other self-serving commitments.  For those of you who are athletes you’ll know that “Leaning in” has a long history in sports to mean putting your weight forward toward someone or something.

“This concept was popularized recently by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sanberg in her book by the same title.  Sanberg was writing to encourage women in particular to embrace challenge and take risks; to push past insecurities and fears.  She encourages readers to be bold in the workplace about those things that really matter—the quality of their work, their leadership, their integrity, their place on the team.  In short, make your commitments with passion and energy and that will take you a long way toward getting the most out of your St. Andrews experience,” he said.

Following the speech, Mr. Cornish began the Community Honor Code Ceremony having all new and transfer students sign pledge cards.  Mr. Sean Moore, Instructor of Music and Accompanist, Mrs. Elizabeth Blair, Assistant Professor of Music, and the St. Andrews Singers leadership team of Gaby Stephens, Gabby Rhodes, Kylie Morgan,Mint Vu and Phillip Alden led the assembly in singing the Alma Mater.

With almost 600 students, plus faculty, staff and community members attending, lunch was served both in Harris Courts and Belk.  Classes resumed following lunch.

(President Baldasare’s speech is available as a pdf.)​