Catawba College President Brien Lewis talked of dreams to those gathered in Omwake-Dearborn Chapel on August 23 at the Opening Convocation for the 2012-2013 academic year. The occasion marked the beginning of Catawba's 161st year since its founding in 1851 and the start of a new school year with Lewis as president.
Quoting Walt Disney, Lewis said, "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." He shared that the way "to discover, prepare for, and fulfill a dream is through curiosity."
Curiosity, he said, should be intentional, not casual, should be unlimited, and should be met with excellence. He asked students, faculty and staff gathered in the audience to cross their arms. He then asked them to try a different way of crossing their arms, and asked them to examine how people seated nearby crossed their arms.
"Don't just dismiss difference – explore it and recognize that it can be challenging to try something different, even a different perspective. That is what Catawba is all about – embracing a different perspective," he continued and admonished, "Prepare, prepare, prepare."
Admitting that he was living his dream of being a college president, Lewis said, "I stand before you as someone fortunate enough to fulfill my dream." Noting that "you can't dream alone," he introduced his wife, Laura, as his partner in the dream that took him 22 years to discover, then 22 years to prepare for and pursue. He said he first realized his passion for higher education while he was involved in student government as an undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill.
Drawing wide smiles and laughs from those gathered, Lewis mimicked the voice of the character Yoda in a scene from "Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back." In that scene, Lewis explained, Yoda is encouraging Luke Skywalker to use the Force to lift his spaceship from the swamp where it is mired. Luke tells Yoda he is trying, and Yoda tells Luke, "No. Try not. Do... or do not."
As is customary at opening convocation, several individuals from various college constituencies brought greetings, including Catawba Board of Trustees Chair, Darlene Ball '62. She explained that there are currently 46 members on the Board and that 39 of those members are Catawba alumni. "For those 39," she said, "Catawba was their foundation to achieving success in many fields and they contribute significantly to the college through their knowledge, time and personal resources."
Ball thanked Lewis for accepting "the call" of the Board to be Catawba's president and said, "We are already seeing the results of his leadership on campus and in the community."
Dr. Lyn Boulter, chair of Catawba's Faculty Senate, shared that "the faculty are currently teaming with the administration and staff to examine the feasibility of initiatives in a Strategic Plan to implement our vision for Catawba."
"In the true spirit of a liberal education," Boulter said, "we the faculty are challenging ourselves and we challenge all of you to be open-minded and open to change in every area of the College as we realize our vision."
Catawba's Student Government Association Executive President, Jana Burkhardt of Wake Forest, noted the changes she had felt and seen on campus since returning this fall. "This positive energy I have felt on campus in the last few weeks is rooted in the great opportunities that have been presented to each one of us," Burkhardt said. "The opportunities have been created by President Lewis, and faculty and staff members. But the most important group that is making changes is you. Catawba's students have surprised many groups of people in the efforts they have made to improve the experiences here, both academically and socially. It is clear that we have a special place for Catawba in our hearts, and we want so many more people to feel the same way."
The spirit of excitement and change was most particularly noted as the Catawba Singers, under the leadership of Dr. Jim Shepherd, the new choral director, sang a rousing version of "Praise His Holy Name." Students, faculty and staff stood smiling, clapping to the beat, moved by the choir's enthusiastic performance and their own excitement for the possibilities of a new academic year.
PHOTOS: Opening Convocation 2012
VIDEO: Highlights from Opening Convocation 2012 | Musical Highlights
REMARKS: Darlene Ball | Lyn Boulter | Jana Burkhardt