Convocation 2013

Hello Gamecocks—Class of 2017! The day you've been working towards, dreaming about and even losing sleep over is finally here! I sense your great excitement and I give you my promise, as your president, that your experiences at Carolina will be even more positive then you've imagined.

Parents and other family members let me warmly welcome and congratulate you. I can relate to this life-changing moment as Patricia and I have experienced it twice, once with our son and once with our daughter. As I remember it, the only tears possibly shed as you depart for home are likely to be from you, the older members of the family!

And to the freshmen, you need to feel good about yourselves. Luck had nothing to do with you getting into the University of South Carolina, you earned this coveted spot. It will interest you to know that of more than 22,000 students who applied to Carolina this year, only 4,900 could be accommodated.

I met some of you yesterday as I got a good workout helping students move into several residence halls. Yesterday in jeans and a tee-shirt and today, in ceremonial robes, I have the honor of formally welcoming you to university life. These are the diverse joys of being your President.

Our beautiful campus covers 450 acres and is home to approximately 8,000 trees. Walking on campus in any season is a joyful, invigorating experience. I encourage you to walk often and explore always. Believe it or not, you’ll still be discovering new things about Carolina when you are a senior!

Patricia and I have the great privilege of living on the Horseshoe in the historic President’s House. And I assure you that we are excited to get to know you, our new neighbors—each and every one of you.

We will actually do our best to meet and talk with each of you. But you’ll need to meet us halfway, come greet us when you see us on the Horseshoe or other spots on campus. We would appreciate that. We absolutely love this life among our spirited students.

Class of 2017, our University has a rich history that is worth reading about. The concept of the state university was first introduced by Thomas Jefferson who believed that state governments should provide for the education of their citizens, especially outside of New England where there was a motley array of church-affiliated schools.

The University of South Carolina (South Carolina College), founded in 1801, was based on Jefferson’s concept. In fact, Thomas Cooper, Carolina’s second president, was one of Jefferson’s great friends.

In 1801, the South Carolina legislature appropriated approximately $50,000 to create the South Carolina College. Monies were used towards the construction of the first building on campus — the Rutledge Building located on the south side of the Horseshoe.

Shortly thereafter, University officials realized that they forgot to budget for books. A supplemental appropriation of $5,000 was provided — which was used to purchase two round-trip tickets to London; one for a professor to select and purchase books, and one for a member of the board of trustees, as a chaperone.

The two traveled to Charleston by horse, to London by boat and to Oxford University by carriage. In Oxford, they interviewed an administrator to discover what the students in Oxford were reading.

After ordering several sets of books and waiting for them to be printed and bound, the duo sailed back to Charleston, journeyed to Columbia and brought the books home to the college.

While that is an amazing story, (it is amazing isn’t it?), what is truly amazing is that some of those very volumes are on campus today on the north side of the Horseshoe in the Caroliniana Library!

Also in the Caroliniana Library is a copy of a speech that John F. Kennedy, Senator from Massachusetts and a future U.S. President, gave as an inspiring commencement address in 1957 when he urged graduates to enter into politics.

I’m sure that during the next four years, each of you will have an opportunity to hear inspiring speeches from fascinating people who will visit our campus.

Now for a little simple advice that is neither historical nor intellectual: Making it though college is not rocket science, unless some of you are majoring in rocket science. Then it is rocket science!

I urge you first and foremost to take care of yourselves. It’s up to you to eat well, eat reasonably and remember that the foods you choose will also have a big impact on your wellness and your success.

Sleep well. (But not in class.) Sleep deprivation is a common cause of mental fatigue, emotional duress, and even compromised immunity. A good night’s sleep allows you to be at your best and I ask you to try to achieve that most of the time.

Our beautiful campus covers 450 acres and is home to approximately 8,000 trees. Walking on campus in any season is a joyful, invigorating experience. I encourage you to walk often and explore always. (I wear a pedometer on most days and I strive for 10,000 steps a day.) Believe it or not, you’ll still be discovering new things about Carolina when you are a senior!

You’ll find exercise will give you more energy in the middle and end of the day. So whether you are walking on campus or rock climbing up the three story high rock wall at the Strom, remember that physical activity is also key to your academic success.

The cornerstone of this university is built on our outstanding faculty. Take the time to get to know your professors. You’ll be surprised how willing they are to answer your questions and to get to know you.

Give them a shout out if you see them on the Horseshoe. Visit them during office hours. They are wise, funny, thoughtful, and generous. Let them get to know you.

Check in with your advisors frequently - they are key to scholarship opportunities, internships and study abroad semesters. They have big plans for you — ask them what they are! When opportunity knocks, we want you to be ready to open the door.

Take the time to learn to sing our beautiful alma mater. Just the other day I heard a student whistling the refrain as he walked across the Horseshoe in the rain. And in a few minutes, the class of 2017 will sing it together for the first time. After our opening day football game, on August 29, we will all sing it with the Gamecock football team.

Now, let me share a few fun facts about the class of 2017. Your class is represented by 41 states plus the District of Columbia and 14 countries.

Fifty-six percent of this class is women, which, by the way, is not unusual for freshmen classes at universities in the United States. We have 18 sets of twins and one set of triplets.

But no matter where you come from, beginning today, you are a South Carolina Gamecock! You are a part of the mighty Gamecock Nation.

There are over 400 clubs on campus. You can join one or even form a new one. I am excited to see so many of our students participate and lead.

I urge you to get to know Kirk Randazzo, director of the Carolina Leadership Initiative; he will help you realize your potential as professionals, citizens and as leaders.

I ask you to make a commitment to the Carolina Family to live the tenets of the Carolinian Creed. This includes participation, voting, debating if you choose to, and always committing to civil discourse.

You’ll have bumps along the road, a poor test grade, a rocky relationship, a disappointment, that’s part of life. Remember that all of us at this university are focused on you. We are here for you and are excited about this day.

We’re going to have four great years together. We’re going to have a great fall sports season that includes a wonderful line-up of soccer, volleyball, cross country and track and field, and did I mention football?

We all wish you a freshman year filled with learning, exploration, service and leadership.

And remember, as a Gamecock, there are no limits to what you can achieve. Good luck and God speed.