2016 Opening Convocation Welcomes Freshman to Benedictine College Community

Opening Convocation Welcomes Freshman to Benedictine College Community

Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Dr. Michael Boland at the 2016 ConvocationBenedictine College celebrated the start of another record-setting academic year on Aug. 30 with a formal Opening School Mass and Academic Convocation. Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis announced that, for the second time in school history, there were more than 500 beginning freshmen at the college. Combined with transfers and international students, there are more new students on campus this year than the entire college enrollment at its low point of 573 students in 1991. The huge class was welcomed into the Benedictine community with a blessing, a photo around the Benedictine “B” in the Haverty Circle, the Mass and the Convocation.

Father Nathan Haverland, pastor at St. Gregory Catholic Church in Marysville, Kan., delivered the homily. Fr. Nathan had graduated from Benedictine College in 2005 and was selected as the guest homilist in a nod to the current Century of Science celebration at the college. He majored in physics and astronomy in a bid to be an astronaut, and went on to do post-graduate work in nuclear engineering.

“I studied science, all of creation. Then I gave myself to the one who made it all in the first place," he said in his message. “I wanted to be an astronaut - to sail among the stars. Little did I know I would do just that, but as a priest.”

He went on to highlight the sciences in religion, citing signs of the Lord's expertise in biology (healing the sick), astronomy (the star of Bethlehem), chemistry (turning water into wine), and even his own discipline: Nuclear engineering.

“You have to know nuclear engineering if you are going to make something out of nothing!” he said with a smile.

The annual Convocation took place following a procession from the church to the Ralph Nolan Gymnasium inside the St. John Paul II Student Center. The Convocation signals the end of “Beanie Week” at the college and features faculty recognitions as well as a keynote speaker.  In keeping with the Century of Science theme, Dr. Michael Boland, a 1981 Benedictine alumnus and St. Louis neurosurgeon, addressed the gathering.

“Benedictine College has a physical nature and, more importantly, it has a soulful nature. You, new students, are now part of the essence that is Benedictine College,” he said.

He covered the vast history of the Benedictines, St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, and touched on the history of the area and the college. He discussed the Catholic, Benedictine, Liberal Arts and residential pillars of the college and told the students they were part of something great.

“You belong here, with as much right to be called a Benedictine Raven as anyone,” he said. “God is building this place. He is using us all, irrespective of how we got here. He used the Benedictine monks and sisters, the raven, Lewis and Clark, and many others before us for the foundation. Now he is using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Jesus Christ holding all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day, Benedictine College built by God, all of us built into it.”

Following the keynote address, the freshman class was welcomed into the community of Ravens and removed their beanies.  The practice of freshmen wearing beanies dates back generations and Benedictine College may be the only college in America that still observes the tradition.

“Now, freshmen, it is time for you to take your place as full-fledged Ravens,” said President Minnis. “Having experienced the benefits of a Benedictine College tradition, and been welcomed into the Raven family, you are now fully incorporated into the college.”

Added to this year’s Convocation was the presentation of the Cross of the Order of St. Benedict to Barbara and George Baumgartner. The couple had been longtime educators, involved with the Mount Academy, Mount St. Scholastica College, St. Benedict’s College and Benedictine College. The Cross of the Order of St. Benedict had been established in 1969 as a way to recognize alumni and friends who have supported the non-profit community, provided civic or religious leadership, and demonstrated professional excellence. George’s father, Andrew, received the award in 1970.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.