Harvard Scholar Addresses Benedictine College Opening Convocation

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Dr. Jacqueline Rivers Addresses the ConvocationBenedictine College celebrated the start of another record-setting academic year on Aug. 28 with a formal All School Mass and Opening Convocation. Nearly 570 freshmen, the largest freshman class in the history of the college, attended the events, which signal the end of “Beanie Week” when incoming freshmen and transfer students are officially welcomed into the college community.

Benedictine College alumnus Reverend Joseph C. Tatro ’92, from the Diocese of Wichita, delivered the homily at the Mass. He spoke about the students’ decision to come to Benedictine College and what that means in their lives.

“Greatness has begun,” he said, in reference to the college’s “Where Greatness Begins” tagline. “Greatness starts with a choice…to be a part of this great institution and our great faith. The call is to be great, and I invite you today to make a decision to be great.”

The annual Convocation recognizes academic accomplishments and this year, Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis reminded everyone of the accomplishments of the Benedictine monks and sisters during the 160th anniversary of the founding of the college.

“In order to make this heritage our own, we must follow the lead of those who have gone before us,” he said. “We are called to transform the world through our commitment to excellence in the Benedictine tradition. Each and every one of us has been given a priceless gift, preserved over the centuries---and it is up to us to live up to that great legacy.”

Each year, the Convocation also features a keynote speaker on a subject of academic interest. This year, Dr. Jacqueline C. Rivers, Executive Director of the Seymour Institute on Black Church and Policy Studies, addressed the gathering. In addition to her role at the Seymour Institute, she is also a Doctoral Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy of the J. F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and is a Graduate Research Fellow of the National Science Foundation.

Rivers was introduced by senior Journalism & Mass Communications major Demaria Walters, who worked with her in Boston over the summer as one of the first Martin Luther King Summer Scholars, a program partnering the Seymour Institute with Benedictine College. Rivers’ talk focused on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy and efforts during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, but also touched on the heroic women portrayed in the movie “Black Panther” and the writings and works of Dorothy Day.

“If each of you as you begin your college career, or continue your college career, will follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, Jr., embracing the privilege and responsibility that comes with a college education, working hard to grow intellectually, working hard to resist injustice, working hard to serve the needy, you won’t have to do it alone,” Rivers told the gathered freshmen. “You will always have Jesus with you. He will strengthen you as he did Dr. King. He will never leave you alone.”

Eugene Rivers Honored during ConvocationHer husband, Reverend Eugene F. Rivers, III, a noted political advisor on faith-based initiatives and crusader against gang violence, spoke at the college later that evening and received the “Do Something Beautiful for God” Award during the Convocation. The award is inspired by a quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta, who said, “Everyday on awaking, my desire and enthusiasm is this: Today I must do something beautiful for God.”

Following the keynote address, the freshman class and transfer students were welcomed into the community of Ravens, removing the beanies they had worn for the past week. The practice of freshmen wearing beanies dates back generations and Benedictine College may be the only college in America that still observes the tradition. Students consider Beanie Week a rite of passage at the college and many freshmen will proudly wear their beanies under their mortarboards four years later at Commencement.

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.