As in any institution, a college’s true worth is greater than the sum of its parts. I often speak of Bethany College’s many “value addeds,” those intangible experiences beyond the norm that set a Bethany College education apart from that offered by other institutions. Our traditions are numerous and significant; however, the 170th anniversary Fall Convocation will surely be among the most memorable.
We officially opened the 2010-2011 academic year September 9 in Commencement Hall with the customary pageantry, including the faculty processional, reflections led by our talented Chaplain, the Reverend Scott Thayer, and my welcoming comments.
The day held extraordinary meaning because of the presence of loyal friends and dedicated supporters such as the McCann Family. We welcomed Bob (’80), his wife Cindy, and oldest daughter Meredith. With his father Bob McCann sitting in the front row beaming with pride, the younger Bob, vice-chair and treasurer of our Board of Trustees and chief executive officer of UBS Wealth Management Americas, delivered a powerful opening address to a packed Commencement Hall. He also accepted the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, for myriad contributions to his alma mater and to society, including serving as a director of the America Ireland Fund.
Throughout his address, entitled “Cradle of Leaders,” Bob returned to his theme of Bethany as a place which has spawned global leaders in business and finance, law, the media, international development, and many other professions, continuing to draw these successful alumni back to campus.
Bob emphasized the value of a Bethany College education with his refrain, “The only small thing about your education is the size of the town.”
“I am incredibly fortunate to have had access and continued access to greater education,” he said. “Bethany prepared me for a global journey that continues and brings me back to this college today and to this stage.”
Bob’s presence vividly demonstrated the enduring ties that bind generations of Bethanians through classes and decades. Among those in the audience was retiring Professor of Economics Randy Cooey, one of Bob’s professors during his Bethany career. Randy’s legacy will continue with establishment of The W. Randolph Cooey Value Added Award, honoring his 44 years of teaching. Also participating in the ceremony was Bob’s good friend and Bethany College Board of Trustees Chair Greg Jordan (’81).
Reaffirming the way in which Bethany’s education shaped his values, Bob challenged current students to “worry about your reputation (s) before you have one.”
He acknowledged the magnitude of the impact that Bethany faculty members such as Professor Cooey have had upon his own personal and professional success.
“Bethany College is special because Bethanians are special. This was true for the Class of 1980, and it will be just as true for the Classes of 2011 and 2014,” he concluded.
Our day with the McCanns continued with a presentation by Bob and several Wall Street colleagues with backgrounds and experience from throughout the world: Paul Keary, founder of Teneo Strategy Consulting; Kathleen Lynch, chief operating officer of Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research, and Michael Donovan, founder of Highlander Capital, joined Greg Jordan and Bob for a wide-ranging discussion of leadership and pathways to personal opportunity.
Following the financial seminar, Dr. McCann joined his friend Colonel David Sutherland, former Commander of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team in Iraq’s Diyala province, for the inaugural convening of the McCann Family Student Investment Fund Speakers Series. Using compelling language, Colonel Sutherland described his own leadership journey, the sacrifices made by soldiers under his command, and his confidence in the generation represented by the students seated before him.
Throughout the day-long focus on leadership and the true meanings of success, I was reminded that Bethany College continues to thrive because over the years, leaders such as Bob and Greg, and faculty members including Professor Cooey, have done an exceptionally fine job of blending the old with the new, respecting and retaining time-honored traditions that lend continuity and community while adapting to changing times. Our College’s commitment to the needs and expectations of contemporary students will yield valued results for Bethany and the world in the decades to come.
Although I’ve cited it before, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison’s (Beloved) quote seems especially apt for Bethany’s well-regarded place among liberal arts colleges today: “Tradition is not there to arrest us; it is there to arouse us.”
Bethanians across the generations have welcomed the new academic year in just such a rousing spirit.