Published: October 2004
On the evening of September 14, 2004, some 2,000 freshmen processed from Gasson Hall to Conte Forum to begin the inaugural First Year Academic Convocation.
In Conte they heard from Paul Farmer, MD, whose innovative treatments for tuberculosis and AIDS have helped hundreds of thousands of patients in impoverished countries. Students also heard talks by Farmer’s biographer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, and University President William P. Leahy, SJ.
Freshmen were introduced to Farmer’s work during summer orientation, when each was given a copy of Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World (Random House, 2003), which chronicles Farmer’s work in Haiti.
The idea for a student academic convocation—an event that would involve a summer reading program, a guest speaker, and a ceremony welcoming freshmen to the community—surfaced nearly five years ago in conversations between freshman orientation director Fr. Joseph Marchese and Paul Doherty of the English department faculty.
“We wanted to meet freshmen at a point in their lives when we could prick their interest and evoke in them an imaginative way of thinking about their lives,” Marchese said. “Boston College does a wonderful job of bringing in ceremony, celebration, and tradition at graduation,” said Dawn Overstreet, who works with Marchese. “This convocation ritualizes the beginning of an academic journey.”
At the urging of the convocation organizers, male students, who usually wear jeans and T-shirts on September evenings, dressed in chinos and collared shirts, while the women came in skirts or dress pants.
Farmer told the freshmen, “Seeing your faces gives me hope—believing you will make the world more open, make it more even, make it more fair.”