Office of the President

Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.

New Student Convocation
Bob Carpenter Sports and Convocation Center
August 30, 2010

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Good morning, Class of 2014. It’s a great day to be a Blue Hen!

I’m Patrick Harker, president of the University of Delaware, and I’m here to welcome you to your home for the next four years—maybe longer—a place I hope you’ll think of as “home” for the rest of your lives. Because you’re a student today, but you’re a Blue Hen forever. You’re tied to this University and its people—to all the virtual strangers sitting way too close to you right now.

So we gave you something to bind you together, to make you a family—and to make it easier to find each other in a crowd. Yes, a t-shirt. Let me give a shout-out to Barnes & Noble, who provided the shirts. Later today, we’re breaking ground on the new UD/Barnes & Noble Bookstore on Main Street.

The t-shirt is important for a couple of reasons. First, it’s your ticket to our Homecoming football game on November 6. Wear that t-shirt when we take on Towson, and you’ll get a free foam finger. It was the least we could do. Really.

But the t-shirt is important for another reason. You’ll see on the back it says, “Dare to be first.” That’s our new slogan. We think it’s pretty bold. This University needs bold. We need students who are bold—students who dare.

For the next four years—and for the rest of your lives—I hope you’ll dare in the things that matter, in the things that are worth your energy and effort, in the things that make you a more interesting, or accomplished, or compassionate person. I hope you’ll dare in the things that make this world a more innovative, more humane, more beautiful place to be.

Beneath “Dare to be first” are six phrases. We call them “pillars” because they’re the big ideas that support this University.

There’s Talent Magnet. That’s you. You’re the talent we’re talking about. 26,538 students applied to be a part of this class. Look around: There’s nowhere near that number here. More than 23,000 students fell away, and now it’s down to you. You were chosen to be a Blue Hen. And then you chose us right back.

And because you’re with us now, next year I’ll stand up here talking to another group of really smart, dedicated, dynamic students—just like you. They’ll come to UD because people like you are already here. Your talent will attract theirs.

Of course, yours isn’t the only talent at UD. Tomorrow, when you walk into your classes for the first time, you’ll come face-to-face with professors who’d be superstars at any university in this country. I should know—I’ve spent the past few years wooing them away from those very universities. If I were you, I’d get to know these truly brilliant people. They’ve got a lot to show you.

Look at your shirt, and you’ll see Citizen University.

UD might be tucked away in a small city in the country’s second-smallest state. But don’t let that fool you. We’re studying and working all over the world, solving the problems that plague us as a global community.

Soon enough, you’ll be joining us around the world. Half of you will study abroad during your time here. That’s important to us, because you’re not just students; you’re citizens. You’re citizens of this world, and you have a responsibility to it—a responsibility to be interested, involved, and invested.

Be a part of this with us. Put your brains and your bodies into this work. These will be the experiences that shape you into the person you’re on your way to becoming—and the experiences you’ll talk about for the rest of your lives.

You’ll see Smart Money on your shirt.

What we mean is that the degree you’ve come here to get will get you something in return—a competitive salary. I know in this economy that sounds irrationally optimistic. We’ve been in a recession since your sophomore year of high school. And I know a lot of you—and a lot of your families—have made significant sacrifices to make this day happen.

But it was a good investment. UD is ranked 16th in the U.S. for return on tuition. That means your lifetime earning power against what you pay for your degree puts you ahead of every single Ivy League grad. And just like any other good investment, if you go all in, you’ll see that return skyrocket.

There’s Discovery Learning on the list.

Let me tell you what discovery learning isn’t. It isn’t sitting at a desk for hours on end, taking notes on what your professor says, and regurgitating those same notes and formulas on an exam. You could get that kind of education anywhere. Here’s the thing: You can’t be removed from the world at large for four years and then be successful in that same world after graduation.

Your education is the accumulation of the experiences you’ll access through faculty, advisors, and mentors who really engage with you. It’s the real-world work you’ll do from day 1—the service-learning, the research, the internships, and the constant connection with business, industry, and the community.

If you break those barriers down now—those artificial walls between college and what we call “real life”—you’ll be the ones employers are after.

We put Idea Leadership on the list because—let’s face it—that’s what matters.

We don’t just want to be in the game, we want to be running it. We want our discoveries, ideas, and inventions to be the ones that breed breakthroughs. And we want you to be a part of it.

You’re not too young; you’re not too inexperienced. Every year, hundreds and hundreds of UD undergrads join in big-time, faculty-level research. Think about that. Think about the access it gives you, the chance to contribute your ideas and your creativity, the chance to build your confidence and your résumé.

Thought leaders make a difference. That’s what we’re in education for. And I think you’re here for the very same reason.

And, finally, there’s East Coast Classic, which the students here can probably tell you about better than I can.

When the Princeton Review profiled UD as one of the country’s best colleges, they surveyed the students, who talked a lot about the campus, the school spirit, and the social life—all of which were called “amazing.” They talked about the countless student groups and activities, and the perfect balance students seem to find between work and play. And about how cheap it is to get a train to Philly, or to catch the Chinatown bus to New York. I think it’s 35 bucks round-trip—you can’t beat that.

This is how one student summed it up: UD is everything college should be. It is. And there’s no shame in enjoying it. I hope you do. Within reason.


So, in a nutshell or six, this is UD’s story. But now it’s your story, too. I said before that you’re one of us. You belong. So take all these phrases on the back of your t-shirt … and live them. Infuse them with your spirit, your drive, your ambitions. Show us what you’ll dare to do.

I’m looking forward to seeing you all again on Wednesday, when we welcome Tracy Kidder to campus. He’ll talk about Strength in What Remains, your First-Year Experience reader, and I know it’ll be a terrific event.

So I’ll leave you with one question.

Are you proud to be a Blue Hen?

Are you proud to be a Blue Hen?

We’re proud to have you.

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