President's Convocation Kicks Off 2008-09 Academic Year

SHREVEPORT, La.— The new freshman class made the traditional walk here today and entered Brown Chapel for the first time to the sounds of applause and cheers as seniors from the class of 2009 lined the sidewalk and officially welcomed them to Centenary College.

The occasion was Centenary's annual President's Convocation that launches each new academic year and offers special recognition to the incoming students and the year's graduating class. This year, the College welcomed more than 270 incoming freshman, as well as new faculty and staff members.

President Kenneth L. Schwab welcomed the crowd and explained the traditions of the academic procession, the traditions and history of the College, and the opportunities that lay before each student.

"Welcome to Centenary as we start our 184th year and our 100th year in Shreveport-Bossier City," said Dr. Schwab to a packed chapel. "Welcome to our new students especially, to an important place on an important day…today you begin your Centenary experience."

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Turning his attention to the Trustees, faculty and staff that had processed into the chapel, he explained that the practice dates back to medieval monks who served as faculty at universities, while the robes and trimmings indicated the highest degree, school and field of expertise. "You, the Class of 2012, now take an honored place across the aisle from the minds who will guide your next four years here," he said.

He also welcomed the 11 new Board of Trustee members, new faculty and staff. And finally, he welcomed the new addition to his family, his wife Kathy, and introduced her to the Centenary community.

His speech turned quickly to the history and traditions of the College, explaining how Centenary began in Jackson, La., in 1825 when tuition was $20 per semester, while room and board was $2 a week, which instantly drew laughter from the crowd. The College, he went on to explain, moved to Shreveport and has been a vital part of the community for the past 100 years.

"The College was built in the middle of a forest at the end of the trolley line from downtown," he said. "After only two short years, Centenary reopened with only seven faculty members, while 20 years later, the College had a large endowment, 17 buildings and a nationally known football team."

"Now almost 100 years later, we have continued the traditions, because those who came before us fought for academic freedom so that we can practice the liberal arts well."

According to Dr. Schwab, the traditions and history of the College are important to each of the returning and new students because it creates opportunity. His advices…explore new relationships, invent new ideas with honor and integrity, and connect to the community and the world with service.

An example of one of the students that seized on the opportunities afforded at Centenary was James Van Doren ’98. In 1994, he said, a young man from Jonesboro, Ark., arrived on campus, became SGA President, provided leadership in his fraternity, and received nearly every leadership award on campus. He later went on to the London School of Economics and graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law. "James is an example of one of our graduates who has upheld the Centenary tradition and fully embraced our opportunities," said Dr. Schwab.

Now the Vice President in Global healthcare with Lehman Brothers, Van Doren shared his thoughts on his time at the College and how they influenced his life since his graduation.

Focusing his comments mainly on the new class of incoming freshman, Van Doren began by saying that Centenary has been a fundamental part of his life since leaving 10 years ago. He told the new class to seize the opportunities that lay before them, that the diversity of the experiences he had while attending Centenary far outweighed the experiences he would have had at a larger institution.

"I challenge anyone to find another college where in a one-year period you can literally travel the world with the Centenary Choir, hold a leadership role in a student government organization, and form lifelong friendships in a Greek organization or any other social organization," said Van Doren. "And at the same time I was able to have one-on-one discussions on political theory with my advisor, the chair of the political science division. You would never have that opportunity at an institution with a student body of 10,000."

Van Doren went on to explain that his time at Centenary prepared him for life after school and his career in investment banking. "Whether it is negotiating business deals or dealing with people on a daily basis, I draw on the foundations of what I learned here at Centenary."

He concluded his remarks by giving the students some words of wisdom to live by. "Life is not about the degrees you hold, the name of the company on your business card, how big your house is, or how much money is in your bank account," he explained. "It is a set of experiences…the people you meet, the things you learn, the places you go and the relationships you build along the way. These are the things that transcend every economic cycle and will carry you through every adversity you face in life. And what Centenary can offer you is a rich set of diverse experiences that you can carry throughout your life. Welcome to Centenary!"

To read coverage from the Shreveport Times, click here.
To view the Shreveport Times On-line photo gallery, click here.

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