By Caroline Chaves
Sometimes a shovel has meaning. Just ask Stonehill College Senior Class President Tyler Normile who presented this year’s traditional senior class shovel to the college president.
This year’s shovel was the Ames Malleable Iron Potato Scoop.
Normile compared the Ames’ family innovation to the innovative spirit that Stonehill embodies and pursues in its students as he presented it to Stonehill College President Fr. John Denning, C.S.C.
As is tradition, the senior class president took the stage for the “Presentation of the Shovel.” In an ode to Stonehill’s beginnings, with the Ames family – famous for their shovels in innovation in their field – the senior chooses a shovel to remind the Stonehill Community of the importance of their history and place.
The potato scoop, as Normile explained, was a central innovation for potato farmers alike. The shovel, which features slits to allow for dirt and rocks to filter through, was a major solution to the issues the farmers had had with previous shovels. Normile compared the Ames’ family innovation to the innovative spirit that Stonehill embodies and pursues in its students.
“To the first years, I hope you remember where you are today,” Normile said. “Think back to this when you discover what your potato is. And to the seniors – we’ve made it this far, let’s make this last one count.”
The presentation was part of the 21st annual Convocation Ceremony at Stonehill, kicking off the school year Aug. 30.
Stonehill students gathered in the Stonehill College Fieldhouse to welcome the class of 2021 and salute the class of 2018 as well as “dedicate and rededicate themselves to the pursuit of learning and teaching” at the start of a new academic year, said Joseph Favazza, college provost and vice president of academic affairs.
The ceremony brought up some conflicting emitions for seniors.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling knowing that this convocation marks the beginning of my senior year,” senior Katie Foley said, “but I’m so excited for the year to come, and the future that lies beyond the Hill.”
Senior Nicholas Sangiovanni, introduced his “friend and mentor,” Professor Helga Duncan, who received the Hegarty Award for Excellence in Teaching last year.
“’I don’t know,’” Sangiovanni said.
It was these words he attributed to be the most important words Duncan had ever said to him. He said those words gave him new insight because his teacher had placed herself on level terrain.
Duncan, wiping away tears after his comments, addressed the crowd with a call against anti-intellectualism, arguing that college is now, more than ever, more job-preparation focused over an intellectual experience of the whole person. By deciding to attend college, Duncan argued that students were making a statement against the track of anti-intellectualism this country seems to be on.
“Education is not a consumer good … a means to an end, it’s making the world a better and more just place … be curious, be open to that which is different,” Duncan said.
The Excellence in Teaching Award, an honor presented every year based on student, faculty, and staff nominations, was awarded to Bettina Scholz. Scholz was not able to attend, but in her absence, the former chair and dean of her college, Peter Ubertaccio received the award for her. He said hiring Scholz, attending her yearly review, and being on the committee for her tenure, were probably among the greatest moments of his career.
To close the 21st edition of Convocation at Stonehill, Father Denning welcomed the freshman class, encouraging them to become deeply engaged and look out for each other.
“I hope you know just how important your words and actions are,” he said.
Denning expressed sympathy and prayers to the people affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and quoted Martin Luther King in relation to the white supremacist march and tragedy in Charlottesville
He said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We all are tied in a single garment of destiny and we must work to deepen the spirit of solidarity among us.
“I pray we all have the conviction and moral compass to stand up to immoral scourges of our day … May we all grow in wisdom and justice and grace, and may Our Lady of the Summit watch over us all,” Denning said in closing.