MU Opening Convocation
Becoming Our Best Selves
August 26, 2014

Welcome to the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year.  It’s good to be together and I look forward with you to a terrific year.

I want to accomplish three things today. 

First, I want to introduce myself.

Second, I want to introduce you to the community of which you are a part.

Finally, I want to issue a challenge.

I’ve been at Manchester for 21 years and, if you add my time as a student, it’s over 25 years.  I haven’t had a chance to meet many of you because I’ve been on our Fort Wayne campus as dean of the College of Pharmacy for the last few years, but I look forward to it.

Here are some things you should know about me:

  • I am more informal than formal.  I often wear a suit and tie, but when I can, I ditch the coat and roll up my sleeves.

    • I want you to call me Dave.  Let’s practice that:  I’ll say it first and you repeat it – “Dave”

    • I’ve been told it isn’t very presidential to have people call me Dave, so if you see me with someone who looks like a donor or trustee, call me Dr. President David F. Fadden PhD.  Let’s practice that – Dr. President David F. McFadden PhD.
  • As our new students heard on Saturday, I’m a Dodgers fan.  I have piles of autographed baseballs and keep my coffee cup on a Dodgers coaster on my desk.  I love being a fan.  That’s why I hate the San Francisco Giants: because I love the Dodgers.

    • The same is true of Spartan athletics.  I love being at games, watching our players give their best.  I love Manchester and, I’ll admit it, I hate Anderson University just like I hate the Giants.  Nothing against them, but they are our rivals and I bleed Black and Gold.  I wanted us all to learn the fight song today so that we can sing it proudly together in supporting our teams.

  • With my wife, Renee (wave from the choir), I enjoy gardening, especially shade plants that we have in the woods beside our house.  Gardening has taught me patience, given me new eyes to appreciate nature and makes the world a better place.

    • Renee and I are going to be moving into the President’s House called Tall Oaks and I’ve already ordered a couple hundred flower bulbs to plant for next spring.  If you like getting your hands dirty, follow me on Twitter at MUPresDave and watch for a tweet about coming over to help put bulbs in the ground.

  • You should know that I won’t be a perfect president, so let me tell you my greatest worry about this job – forgetting names.  Walking up to someone I know and not remembering their name.  I am awful with names. 

    • On Sunday, Renee and I met two Manchester seniors in the grocery store and they introduced themselves and said their names – twice.  I remember Alex because I wrote his name down right away, but in those few seconds after we met I couldn’t remember whether Tyler was Taylor or Taylor was Tyler or maybe it was neither.

    • So, I need your help.  I need a generic, gender neutral name that I can call each of you, all of you.  People have suggested Chet or Champ or Buddy or just Hey You, but none of those are what I’m looking for.  If you have ideas, send them to me by email at dave@manchester.edu
    • Be forewarned though, name or no name, I’m not going to let it get in the way of getting to know you. I will sit at your table at lunch and approach you when you’re on the mall. I'll come up to you after your competitions, plays, and concerts. I'll start with something like “hey, champ” and then we’ll talk.

  • Finally, let me tell you a couple of the reasons I’m so proud to be Manchester’s 15th president:

    • I’m a third generation graduate of Manchester

      • My grandfather helped pay for his education here by giving haircuts to the guys in his dorm.

      • My parents met here and Wilbur’s in the library is named after my dad.

      • I met my wife here during freshman orientation 38 years ago.

      • And our children, Rachel and Sam, are fourth generation graduates.

    • I’m proud that we offer so many different opportunities for learning and that our graduates do so well after they finish here.  I received a great education at Manchester and am thrilled to help give so many others, including all of you, the same opportunity.

    • Like our fight song, our alma mater is a way of expressing our pride in Manchester.   I want us all to learn it in a few minutes so that we can sing it together when you graduate, when we see each other at alumni events and when you come back for your fifth, tenth and fiftieth class reunions.

Okay.  Let’s introduce you to each other.

Part of the reason Manchester is such a good place to live and learn is that we are each so different from one another.  So, let’s look at some of those differences:

I’d like the front row to stand and come to the edge of the stage.  We’re going to use the front here as a giant continuum.  I’ll give you some directions and then have you find your place between the two ends. 
Here’s the first one:

  • Find your place based on how far you came to be here.  At this end is very far away, from another country, and at this end is not very far away – from North Manchester.  No precise scale, so use your sense of how far you came.

  • Next, stand at this end if you consider yourself very conservative politically and at this end if very liberal.

  • Stand down here if you consider yourself very introverted and at this end if you’re very extroverted.  If you’re somewhere in between, find a place along the continuum.

    • Others, including those on stage – I’m going to give you three options:  more introverted, somewhere in the middle, and more extroverted.  Stand if you would be closer to the introverted end. You can sit.  Now stand if you would be near the middle.  If closer to the extroverted end? 

  • Stand down here if you are certain of what you want to study and do after Manchester, and at this end if you really have no idea.  If you’re sorta sure, find a place that fits.

    • Those of you out there who are returning students – stand up if you have changed your mind or changed your major since starting college.  New students – it happens and don’t worry if it happens to you.
  • Okay, last one – Stand at this end if you did your absolute very best academically in high school – you gave it everything you have – and at this end if you could have given a whole lot more.  This isn’t about whether or not you were a good student, it’s about whether or not you gave your best.

    • Faculty – I’d like you to stand if you didn’t give your best in high school.  There is hope!

If you don’t know it already, Manchester is a safe place to be who you are.  We are all different, but we are all part of a single community now.
You can be yourself at Manchester.

So here’s the challenge:  do more than just be yourself here.  Be your best self.

  • Being your best self means finding out what you are truly passionate about. 

    • A long time ago I was introduced to a quote about vocation by a theologian named Frederich Buechner that goes like this (I’m paraphrasing):  “Vocation is that place to which you are called where your deep joy meets the world’s great need.”  Let me say that again:  “Vocation is that place to which you are called where your deep joy meets the world’s great need.”  When you know what you’re passionate about, making the world a better place is as simple as making that connection between joy and need.
  • Being your best self means sharing yourself, connecting with others, contributing to the community in a meaningful way.  Speak up in class, share an idea, insight or opinion.  Stretch yourself, build your self-confidence, plop yourself down at a table and join a conversation, even if you don’t remember people’s names.
  • Being your best self means learning about and from others.  At Manchester, we respect the infinite worth of every person – that how our mission statement begins. We learn from each other through respectful dialogue and interactions about and around our differences.  Be open to new ideas, self-discovery and personal growth. 

I want you to know that all of us – faculty and staff and the University itself – are committed to being our best selves too.

  • We’re asking you to explore what you are passionate about.  We are passionate about teaching, learning and educating the whole person.  There are as many different teaching styles here as there are faculty on the stage and more opportunities to learn in and out of the classroom than you can count – there’s that diversity again – but we are all committed to your success.

  • We’re asking you to share yourself and connect with others.  We deeply value community and help build it by embracing what you bring to us.

  • We’re asking you to grow and change and we are doing the same.  We’re exploring new programs, building our reputation and taking risks.  Your Manchester degree will become more and more valuable because we will continue getting better and better.

We are our best selves when helping you grow, learn, and gain a deeper understanding of yourself and the world.

We are our best selves when helping you find that place where your deep joy meets the world’s great need.

We are our best selves when we change the world through you. 

You can be yourself at Manchester.  That’s a given.  I challenge you to be your best self this year.  When you are your best selves, the world is a better place. 

Thank you.