With the greeting of “Happy new year!” from Provost Fred Kniss, an address from Interim President Lee Snyder and a traditional “Shenandoah Welcome,” Eastern Mennonite University’s 2016-2017 academic year made its debut Wednesday at opening convocation in a filled Lehman Auditorium.
“For each of us—student, faculty or staff person—this marks the beginning of another chapter in a longer story,” said Snyder, who is serving for six months during the transition from former President Loren Swartzendruber to President-elect Susan Schultz Huxman, who will take office Jan. 1.
“Sometimes you don’t know where you’re going, but the only way you’ll find out is if you get going,” Snyder said, quoting former Poet Laureate Rita Dove. “So this morning we get going.”
Snyder, who served as president of Bluffton University and as a vice president, dean and professor at EMU before retirement, examined the concepts of “Change, Hope and Promise” as three forces influencing the experience of the year ahead. She drew on the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who told the Hebrew people in exile that God had “plans to give you hope and a future.” (29:11, NIV)
“As a community, we are part of an overarching narrative of the love of Jesus, and the end of that story is one of courage, grace and humbly walking together as we discover God’s purpose for our lives,” she said.
Earlier, Kniss welcomed approximately 283 new students, including first-year and transfers, to campus with the accompaniment of a big round of applause.
“You are joining a community of learning that has been on the move for nearly 100 years,” he said. “This is an exciting place to be.”
Kniss noted this year’s academic focus on the unequal access to clean water, which will be explored through the Common Read text—“Memory of Water” by Emmi Itäranta—as well as through visiting speakers and other events.
The celebratory tone of the convocation paused for a moment of remembrance for Sarah Armstrong, director of the MA in Education program, who died unexpectedly on Aug. 24.
Other features of the program included an invocation from David Evans, assistant professor of history and mission; a send-off for a group of students doing a cross-cultural program in Central Europe this fall; greetings from Student Government Association co-presidents Quinn Kathrineberg and Elisabeth Wilder; and robust congregational singing.
The music spilled out of the auditorium at the conclusion of the convocation when new students, faculty and staff were blessed with EMU’s Shenandoah Welcome, exiting through a gauntlet of clapping and smiles backed by traditional Appalachian bluegrass music.