On Saturday I attended my 14th opening convocation at DePauw. These gatherings are fairly standard affairs from the perspective of the faculty on the stage: we file in, take our seats, and listen (sometimes more attentively than others) as a string of important people welcome the incoming students and their families to DePauw. Five years ago, though, President Casey instituted a change to the proceedings. Specifically, he added a faculty member—chosen by the previous graduating class—to that string of speakers. It began in 2011 with Greg Schwipps who set the bar impossibly high for his colleagues who would speak in subsequent years. Or so it seemed at the time. In the years that have followed, Erik Wielenberg, Wayne Glausser, Anne Harris and Joe Heithaus have each addressed the students and their families with astounding wit, wisdom, intelligence, passion, humility, and a deeply humane spirit. They have been true representations of what the liberal arts is about and reminders of why what we do here matters so very much. Each year they have addressed the audience in front of them, but they are also speaking to the audience of faculty colleagues behind them: Reminding us why we do what we do, and giving us something to which we can all aspire. I am not ashamed to admit that I have been moved close to tears each and every time, from either laughter, inspiration or an encounter with unexpected beauty. I want to thank President Casey for this addition to the proceedings and for the faith it demonstrates in our faculty. Mostly, I want to thank those colleagues (and the colleagues to follow) for reminding me what a powerful force for good we can be when we let our best selves come forward.
Associate Professor of Communication & Theatre
Director of Media Fellows and the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media