Sept. 10, 2004 • Volume 13 Number 1

Class of 2008 Set to Begin a Tradition

Reading, processional and convocation to help 'bookend' college years

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

A touch of the pomp and circumstance that traditionally marks the close of students' college careers will highlight the beginning for Boston College's newest undergraduates.

In what organizers hope will grow into a venerable first-year ritual at Boston College, all 2,300 members of the Class of 2008 are to join a procession through campus to Conte Forum for the inaugural First Year Academic Convocation at 7 p.m. on Sept. 14.

Led by the BC Screaming Eagles Marching Band, the freshmen will process from Bapst Lawn across Linden Lane and down the Higgins Stairs to Conte Forum, to the encouragement, sponsors hope, of upperclassmen lining the route.

Heretofore, the only time all members of a class have gathered together has been for their exit from college at Commencement, said Ethan Sullivan, assistant director of the Office of First Year Experience, the event's organizer.

He said the freshman convocation procession is meant to "prefigure" Commencement four years hence and thus form "book-ends to the college experience."

Fittingly, the intended first of the book-end ceremonies will center on a book.

All entering freshmen have been assigned to read Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder's critically-acclaimed book on Haiti clinic founder Dr. Paul Farmer, for the occasion.

Dr. Farmer, a modern-day Albert Schweitzer who has devoted his life to treating the needy in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, is to join his chronicler, Kidder, in keynoting the convocation, which has taken for its theme Jesuit St. Ignatius' charge to missionary St. Francis Xavier: "Go Set the World on Fire."

The Boston-based doctor will engage in a conversation with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author for a half-hour or so. University President William Leahy, SJ, also will deliver remarks. All first-year students are required to attend, and will be expected to have read the book, though not required to discuss it.

"In an era where the word 'hero' is used with abandon, the story of Dr. Paul Farmer reminds us all of what being heroic really means," reads the advance at the First Year Experience Web site.

First Year Experience director Rev. Joseph Marchese consulted with various faculty members before choosing Mountains Beyond Mountains as the assigned reading for the first freshman convocation, said Sullivan.

By raising the issue of vocation in such a compelling way, Kidder's profile of the driven clinic doctor is a "natural fit" for a convocation intended to introduce freshmen to the values and mission of Boston College, Sullivan said.

"The book raises the question of where we see ourselves going in our own vocation," he said. "It's a very hard bar to reach that Farmer raises. How do we find our own calling? What are we called to do in our own lives? What's realistic?"

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