8/29/2017 Peter Durantine

In a Chaotic World, Class of 2021 Has Obligation to the ‘Long Blue Line’

At Franklin & Marshall’s Aug. 29 Convocation, President Daniel R. Porterfield told the members of the incoming class they are now part of the College’s 230-year history and urged them to “go deep” as they pursue a meaningful education in an era of social and political turbulence.

“We have obligations to all who are also part of F&M’s ‘Long Blue Line’ -- to honor and represent one another with our choices and actions, and to help the College live its values while considering new ways to develop our mission given the dizzying world in which we live,” he said.

Porterfield told the Class of 2021 – the largest, most diverse and most accomplished in F&M’s history – that “each of you has the ability, right here and now, and every day that you are in college, to create a profoundly meaningful education.”   

Read President Porterfield's address.

  • President Porterfield: “We have obligations to all who are also part of F&M’s ‘Long Blue Line.’" President Porterfield: “We have obligations to all who are also part of F&M’s ‘Long Blue Line.’" Image Credit: Deb Grove

The 647 students, who hail from 25 states, the District of Columbia and 21 countries, marched under gray, drizzly skies to the Alumni Sports and Fitness Center, where they assembled by their College House (Bonchek, Brooks, New, Ware, Weis) before the program began.

In her faculty remarks, Professor of Mathematics Annalisa Crannell, the 2016 recipient of the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, used math’s “chaos theory” and its “transitivity” condition to explain what the first years were experiencing.

“Your own lives here are full of transitivity now, “ Crannell said. “When I arrived at college, … I wanted to study foreign languages so that I could become a Washington, D.C., tour guide.  But my dad convinced me I ought to take ‘one last math class,’ and I agreed. One thing led to another and now I’m addressing you as a math professor.” 

Read Professor Crannell's speech.

In keeping with Porterfield’s theme of creating your own learning, two upperclassmen shared their experiences of personal growth since coming to campus.

“Before college, I often ran from challenges, due to self-doubt and the stress of dealing with life’s obstacles,” junior Jyra Jones said. “I chose to avoid the things that frightened me, like getting on this stage and speaking to you, but F&M has not only prepared me to confront my fears, but also to transform them into powerful opportunities to grow.”

Read Jyra Jones's speech.

Senior Gregory Fullam, who spent fall 2016 studying abroad in a small village in Madagascar, where he did research with two local students who translated the Malagasy, the spoken language. He arrived abroad as an environmental studies major, but the experience living in the village, which had no electricity, changed him.

“My major no longer fit the interests that had taken hold inside me,” Fullam said. “I loved talking to the people I met about their lives—the human perspective in environmental studies. So when I came back, I decided to create my own major, to study English and philosophy as a way of exploring the side of environmental studies that calls to me. I’m still shaping it, still uncertain in so many ways, but I’m excited for all the possibilities of my final year.”

Read Gregory Fullam's speech.

Jones urged the freshmen class to keep their minds open and to explore the academic and extracurricular opportunities F&M offers. She left the students with this advice,  “I would like for you to think about what you hope to gain, how you hope to grow, and how you plan to contribute to our community,” Jones said. “F&M and society need us, and we have so much to contribute—and those contributions begin with self-discovery.” 

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