Journal Archive > 2001 > September

New president greets new students as Tufts rings in its sesquicentennial

Tufts’ new president greeted the university’s newest undergraduates at matriculation ceremonies on August 29, welcoming them to a place that encourages academic rigor in the pursuit of a better world.

President Lawrence S. Bacow, in one of his first addresses to the university community, told the 1,170 first-year students, “I know that you are among the very best students to ever assemble on this Hill. You have what it takes to be successful at Tufts and to make a difference here and in the world.

President Lawrence S. Bacow chats with faculty members after matriculation on August 29. © Marc Morelli

“We have an obligation as citizens of this university and citizens of the planet to use the unique talents and abilities that are embodied here for the good of our community and our neighbors, both local and global,” Bacow said.

“Be bold; be thoughtful; be proud that you are a Tufts student,” he urged.

Ringing in the sesquicentennial
Earlier in the day, Bacow led the kickoff for the university’s sesquicentennial celebration, heralded by the chiming of bells at Goddard Chapel—150 times, for each year of Tufts’ history.

After thanking the university community for the warm welcome it has extended to him and his wife, Adele Fleet Bacow, the president addressed the theme of the 150th anniversary: Celebrating the past and shaping the future.

It was fitting, he said, that the flag raising was taking place within sight of Ballou Hall, the building “that gave substance to Charles Tufts’ vision of a light on the Hill.”

“For our first 150 years, our community has been part of shaping society,” Bacow said. “Our generation is now obligated to continue that tradition of scholarship and discovery. I believe we are capable of such greatness.”

He recalled the accomplishments of Tufts presidents Jean Mayer, whose vision lead to the establishment of the veterinary and nutrition schools, and John DiBiaggio, whose vision created the University College of Citizenship and Public Service. “I certainly will do my best to follow in their footsteps,” he said.

A Jumbo remembers
At the flag-raising ceremony, Alan MacDougall, A65, president-elect of the Tufts University Alumni Association, recounted the last time he had heard the Goddard bells ring 150 times—when he and a fellow undergraduate were tapped to toll the bell after word reached campus of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.

MacDougall went on to use the bell as a metaphor for his message of achievement, service and lifelong learning that continues to reverberate with Tufts alumni long after they have left the university.

For students, “that bell marks the days and hours of their journey through this place,” he said. “And even when the Hill is but a distant shadow on the horizon, we can, if we listen, hear that bell and strive to be that light.”

Then, Eric Greenberg, A02, president of the Tufts Community Union Senate, helped hoist the university’s special 150th anniversary flag into a late summer sky as brilliantly blue as the new banner itself.

Welcome to the Hill
Two hours later, the first-year students filled the lawn on the main academic quad for matriculation, flanked by their families, faculty and other guests, to begin their journey of discovery.

Senior Vice President and Provost Sol Gittleman informed them that journey will not end in four years. “You will be in school the rest of your lives,” he said.

Continuing the day’s theme of connecting the past and the future, Gittleman told the students, “Your faculty is the product of another century. We are steeped in the 20th century. Your future, the rest of your lives, will be in the 21st. You need to understand the older world in order to deal with yours.”

Bacow greeted the Class of 2005 warmly, telling the students, “Your class will always be very special to me. In a very real sense, we are all freshmen together.”

He assured the students that despite any anxiety they may have about their place at Tufts, “you belong to be here.”

“The admissions committee does not make mistakes,” he told the students, most of whom ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, and all of whom survived a rigorous admissions process.

“You are here because you distinguished yourselves…you are everything that we look for in Tufts students. You belong on this Hill.”

A remarkable journey
“Tufts offers you opportunities previously unknown to develop your intellect, to explore great ideas and texts of our time, to develop a lifelong commitment to learning, to begin to lead a reflective life,” Bacow said.

“You are entering a world that encourages exploration and learning, debate and inquiry, respect for those who think differently and an admiration for those who challenge conventional wisdom. At Tufts, we embrace academic rigor, but we do so in the pursuit of a better world,” he continued. “Our journey, I believe, is bound to be a remarkable one. There may be twists and turns along the way, but if you stay the course, I assure you that the rewards will be great.”

Bacow encouraged the new students to get to know their professors and to get to know the world beyond the Hill. And, he said, remember that there are lessons well beyond the classroom. “You will learn as much from each other as you will from the faculty,” he said. The president was greeted with appreciative applause from families when he said, “Your time has come to recognize that you did not get to this moment alone…You will be very busy with your new life at Tufts, but please remember to take the time to stay in touch with the people at home.”

Meeting with faculty
Following matriculation, Bacow was formally introduced to the Arts, Sciences and Engineering faculty at a meeting at Marston Balch Arena Theater by his predecessor, President Emeritus DiBiaggio.

Bacow told the group the caliber of a university hinges on the strength of its students and faculty and the staff that supports those students and faculty. To that end, his outlined priorities:

  • Increasing support for faculty, including faculty salaries
  • Increasing financial support for students
  • Knitting together the university’s seven schools and making it easier to work across disciplinary boundaries
  • Raising the visibility of Tufts throughout the world
  • Increasing diversity among faculty
  • Raising more money and articulating a bold and sharp vision that will attract donors