Colorado College’s 2019 Convocation: Welcoming the Class of 2023

By Tom Byron

Colorado College is entering into its 146th school year. To celebrate, CC kicked off Block 1 with speeches by staff, alumni, and the head of student government at 9 a.m. on Aug. 26. 

Alex Hernandez-Siegel, chaplain to the college and associate dean of students, gave an invocation in which he implored each student of the incoming class of 2023 to “call yourself” and remember to reflect on one’s own actions and achievements in spite of the rush of modern life. Following this, President Jill Tiefenthaler gave a short welcome, focusing on the history of the college and acknowledging the Ute people on whos ancestral land the college sits, before turning the microphone over to Ethan Greenberg ’20, president of the CC Student Government Association. 

Greenberg’s welcome speech was directed at the class of 2023, asking them to be spontaneous, and to avoid falling into predictable patterns. In doing so, he cited his own experience as a first-year: making friends on the way to the dining hall, changing his schedule on a whim, and taking only two of the eight blocks for which he had pre-registered. He urged the students to not “allow the forecasters of our lives undue power,” while noting that such spontaneity is easier for those students who do not need to worry about scholarships or work study, and for those who see themselves “reflected … in our predominantly white institution.” Beyond this topic of spontaneity, however, Greenberg made reference to the shooting of De’Von Bailey by Colorado Springs police officers in his opening remarks, in order to demonstrate to new students that the CC community’s responsibility extends beyond the borders of the campus.

Next came the presentation of alumni honorary degrees to Colby Coombs ’89, Felisa Gonzales ’01, and Adam Kim ’98. Coombs was presented with a Doctorate of Humane Letters Honoris Causa for his business acumen in founding the Alaska Mountaineering School, as well as his sponsorship of the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund, which funds the climbing wall at the Adam F. Press Fitness Center, in honor of his fellow CC alumnus who died during an Alaskan climbing expedition. Gonzales received a Doctorate of Science Honoris Causa for her research on health disparities in communities of color, which has been published in ’20 peer-reviewed publications, two book chapters, and two reports. Kim was also given a Doctorate of Science Honoris Causa for his contributions to the field of gastroenterology, as well as his continual involvement in the CC community, where he has mentored graduates, organized reunions, and funded a scholarship in honor of his graduating class. 

Kim gave the keynote address, which focused on the theme “Press On!” — a phrase that he heard during his first year at CC in by Calvin Coolidge on the importance of perseverance. He went on to speak about how perseverance matters to him in his medical practice, and how various CC alumni showed perseverance in their lives and careers. Kim also noted that stress is a major factor for many young people, and that he has extensive experience with young people coming to his practice with crippling stomach pain caused entirely by stress. He used this as an opportunity to urge the class of 2023 to find balance in their college careers, and to ensure that they put their health first. Once Kim finished, Hernandez-Siegel closed the convocation with a short benediction and prayer. 

 

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