Convocation opens academic year and welcomes Class of 2004

At New Student Convocation Aug. 28, Ralph J. Begleiter, Distinguished Journalist in Residence, told members of the Class of 2000 that ties formed during their undergraduate days at UD could be the springboard to careers that most people only dream of.

Speaking from experiences gained during a career of 30 years as a globe-trotting reporter covering the world's hot spots, the former CNN >world affairs correspondent reminded the freshmen class that the educational opportunities of today transcend political and geographical boundaries.

Begleiter described an undergraduate class he recently taught in Gore Hall, where many of the students in the Class of 2004 will be taking classes.

"They looked like you, wore clothes like you and one of them, just like you, fell sound asleep before my very eyes" Begleiter said. "When I mentioned the places I'd traveled to, like St. Petersburg, Moldova and Turkmenistan--just to name a few--those kids knew where I was talking about."

The students in Begleiter's class were not unusually adept in geography: The places Begleiter mentioned were familiar because these 50 students were from Russia.

"Think about it; that could be you," Begleiter said. "One day, you could be studying in another country, thanks to the connections you'll make here at the University of Delaware."

Another example Begleiter cited of just how far the UD experience can take students was a student in his "Media and Politics" class who was having trouble choosing a topic for her term paper.

The student, whose family is Filipino, remembered a story Begleiter had told about the news media's role in a revolution in the Philippines in 1986, and she wrote her paper on that topic. The class ended, the paper was turned in and Begleiter figured that was the last he would see of that student.

"Suddenly, last spring, she e-mailed me right out of the blue," he said. "She said the story we'd discussed in class prompted her to get her parents to take her to the Philippines, a place she'd never been."

The student also attributed the entire experience to his class.

"That could be you," Begleiter said. "One of these days, something you do in one of your classes will inspire you to go somewhere or do something that could change your life."

Begleiter also spoke about another former student who thanked him for the chance to meet famous political reporters during a class trip to Washington, D.C., and to deliver a letter to his hero, U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Another former student landed a summer job a CBS News in New York City, where she got to write for the morning news, as well as including three shows on the History Channel.

"That could be you," Begleiter said. "You could find yourself meeting people and doing things you never imagined possible. It could happen in an oddball class--not necessarily part of your major--or with a professor you met on campus--even if you've never taken her class."

Begleiter urged students not to lose sight of their ultimate goals in the busy days ahead.

"You're at the gateway to some fantastic experiences, and you won't always be able to predict when, where and how they are going to happen," he said. "Think big, open your mind and seize the experiences that interest you. Take advantage of every opportunity that crosses your path at home and abroad."

After Begleiter's remarks, UD President David P. Roselle welcomed the new class, which ranges in age from 16 to 63. He also wished a happy birthday to the 11 students born on Aug. 28 and welcomed 11 pairs of twins, 31 valedictorians, 27 salutatorians, 297 students with perfect 4.0 high school grade point averages, 63 Jennifers and 61 Michaels.

The presidents urged students to take advantage of the many excellent resources available at the University. "You have an opportunity to study at a university ranked among the nation's best. Having taken advantage of this, you have the responsibility to give something back," he said.

Judy Van Name, consumer studies and president of the Faculty Senate, presented the Francis Alison Award for excellence to George C. Hsiao, mathematical sciences.

Van Name said it was appropriate that Hsiao be given the highest honor bestowed on faculty members because "George has probably been a thesis adviser to more students than anybody in the math department." She also cited Hsiao's distinguished career as a researcher and author.

"It is a great honor to receive the Francis Alison Award," Hsiao said. "I would like to thank the faculty and the students who recommended me for the award this year."

In welcoming the Class of 2004, Hsiao noted that during his 31 years at UD, "I have been very fortunate to have had so many good students who made my experiences here so pleasurable."

Kimberly A. Franchino, president of the Delaware Undergraduate Student Congress, also welcomed the new students and urged them to take advantage of their time at the University and to pick their own path.

Franchino presented the Class of 2004 flag to freshman representative Kevin M. Carter.

Sophomore music major Kathryn A. Humfeld led the singing of the alma mater.