At Syracuse University, mid-August is the signal that fall is in the air. While some are still packing their towels and beach chairs for vacation, activity on this campus accelerates as we prepare to welcome the next class of first-year students and their more seasoned returning colleagues.
So, despite the late-summer heat, we are envisioning bright leaves, cobalt skies, and brisk weather. But most of all, we eagerly anticipate a new opportunity to fulfill our mission to foster learning.
For me, this academic year officially began at 10 a.m. on Friday, August 27. That's when the Pride of the Orange marched across the turf of the Carrier Dome beating a cadence that always sends shivers down my spine. The drumrolls and flourishes announced that the convocation for new students was about to begin.
I am awed, too, by the great responsibilty we shoulder together as faculty, staff, and students. We are quite literally helping to shape the next century with the work we do today.
For the past few years I've included the following information in my speech to new students as a way to drive home the point that higher education is a very serious undertaking.
"It has been said that, if it were possible to shrink the Earth's population to a village of exactly 100 people, keeping all ratios the same, there would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 North and South Americans, and 8 Africans.
"Half of the village's wealth would be in the hands of six people-and all would be from the United States. Seventy of the 100 would not be able to read; 50 would suffer some form of malnutrition; 80 would live in substandard housing.
"Out of all of these, just one would have a college education."
And, while I know not all of the young women and men seated before me in the Dome will earn national and international praise and recognition in their careers, I do know that each will be a leader of one sort or another.
As critical as this work we do together at Syracuse is, it is not a daunting or forbidding enterprise. In fact, it is exciting, energizing, and often great fun. That is the nature of learning.
But we can never lose sight of its significance both now and well into the new millennium.
Kenneth A. Shaw
Chancellor and President