October 12, 2012 by Op-Ed
Having had the good fortune to attend nearly all the annual Drexel Convocations held since I joined the faculty in 1967, I write in salute to this year’s Oct. 2 event, easily one of the best in the past 45 years.
The event satisfied each of five criteria by which such an informational ritual might be assessed. First, the packed audience learned about strategic gains in enrollment; for example, 67 percent of entering students come from the top quarter of their high school graduating class — a new Drexel record. They are from 41 states and 74 countries and have a 1226 combined average SAT score — a most impressive and auspicious profile.
Second, the keynote speaker, National Science Foundation Deputy Director Cora B. Marrett, traced many empowering linkages between the University and the NSF. Attendees welcomed touches of humor, as with references to Mario the Magnificent, Marrett detailed the many ways in which ongoing NSF-funded research at Drexel holds promise of soon helping America and the world meet major pressing concerns.
Third, President John A. Fry continued his Convocation practice of updating Drexel’s progress as a pioneer. Drexel has provided a model for higher education in how an urban university can ally with a nearby major educational institution (the Academy of Natural Sciences), even as it fosters development of an “Innovation Neighborhood” in collaboration with Powelton Village and Mantua institutions.
Fourth, the Convocation audience heard brief, heartfelt greetings from well-spoken representatives of both the undergraduate and graduate student governments, along with the head of the Faculty Senate, thereby reminding one and all that Drexel is a “community” of mutually respecting allies.
Finally, attendees were treated to an awesome demonstration of the high-order place of the arts at our technological University. The rendition by the chorus of the spiritual “Soon Ah Will be Done” readily earned a second round of enthusiastic applause. Likewise, the post-event dance/engineering/music collaborative performance in the Great Court, a surprise “gift” titled “Attempting Connections,” was outstanding — just the sort of cutting-edge artistic venture one would hope to be able to experience when matriculating on a cutting-edge campus.
Convocation 2012 raised the bar high for such an event, and our founder, A.J. Drexel, looking on from his larger-than-life bust atop the second-floor plaza, seemed to have had many reasons to be pleased with the entire event.
Emeritus Professor of Sociology