On a beautiful Sunday in May we celebrated our annual spring commencement.
Commencement day is one of the longest days on our annual calendar, beginning in the early morning with our Honors Recognition Convocation, and ending long after dark with the Hofstra Law Commencement. It is also one of the most rewarding days for faculty, staff, and our community. Board of Trustee Chair John Miller and I shook the hands of more than 2,000 students in four ceremonies: honors, undergraduate, graduate and law. When crossing the stage at commencement, a pivotal moment in their lives, these 2,000 students receive more than the degree they’ve worked so hard to earn. They join 107,000 other members of the Hofstra alumni family, a group of individuals that can be an important part of their journey through life.
Spring commencement coincides with the weekend we celebrate our class reunions. The weekend is packed with activities, including lectures, an alumni organization luncheon, a dinner/dance and tours of campus. During commencement, we recognized members of the 50th reunion class, and celebrated the continuation of Hofstra tradition.
This year, both the class reunion activities and the commencement were particularly joyful and spirited occasions. I was reminded yet again of how special the Hofstra community is, and how important the connections we make in college can be over the course of our lifetime.
Hofstra University is dedicated to enhancing the value of that connection – as well as the value of your degree. Perhaps you heard this past spring of the University’s efforts to bring one of the 2008 presidential debates to our campus, making this potentially the first debate to be held in New York state since Nixon and Kennedy faced each other in the NBC studios in 1960. If we are successful in winning the right to host a presidential debate, the eyes of our nation, even the world, will turn to Hofstra for days during what is sure to be one of the most vigorously contested presidential races in modern times.
But our efforts to host a presidential debate are only one of a myriad of initiatives we have launched, to continue to enhance our academic offerings and reputation. In the past year, we’ve launched several innovative academic programs, including a B.S in Forensic Science; an M.F.A. in Documentary Studies and Production; an M.A. in Applied Social Research; and an Ed.D. in Learning and Teaching.
Our speakers series is without parallel, and has included our Great Writers, Great Readings guests, who this year alone included Pulitzer Prize winner John McPhee, NEA Fellow Terrance Hayes, Tony Award winning playwright Richard Greenberg and novelist Lorrie Moore. Other guests who spoke to our students during the past semester included novelist Salman Rushdie, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, and New York Times Managing Editor John Geddes. Award-winning actresses Susan Sullivan and Talia Shire performed (with Hofstra student Missy Dowse) in a staged benefit reading of Agnes of God.
The second year of our Visiting Scholars program was also exceptional. This year’s visiting scholars included Dr. Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a recognized scholar of the New Testament and early Christianity; Dr. Bobbi Low, a faculty member at the University of Michigan, whose research interests include the use of evolutionary theory to understand human activities; and over the spring semester, the Department of Drama and Dance hosted award-winning choreographer Martha Clarke as a special visiting professor.
As we get ready to welcome the next incoming class, the Class of 2011, we continue to update the facilities you used when you were a Hofstra student. Last fall, we opened a newly renovated main floor of the Axinn Library.This fall, our third pedestrian bridge will be fully operational, and we will open a renovated and refurbished Student Center dining facility and complete the first phase of our planned renovations in the Netherlands central common area.
And while it is still early, and the class is still being formed, we anticipate that the Class of 2011, like the five classes before them, will be the most academically accomplished class in Hofstra’s 70+ year history. Average SAT and GPA scores continue to rise, and our students, faculty and community are more engaged in the academic life of our University than ever.
I hope you take the opportunity this fall to come back and see how Hofstra University has grown, and how you can reconnect with your alma mater.