Radford Shows Its Light Side at Fall Convocation
In an exuberant celebration featuring poetry, music and dance, President Penelope W. Kyle and Provost Sam Minner on Aug. 25 led Radford University into its new academic year at a jubilant Fall Convocation punctuated by laughter, applause and ovations.
“You had to be there,” Nora Reilly, associate dean of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies, said afterward. “No one ever says that about a convocation.”
President Kyle opened the assembly by welcoming faculty and staff in a packed Pridemore Playhouse back to campus, praising successful summer programs during the break, including the acclaimed Virginia Governor’s School for the Humanities and Visual and Performing Arts, and giving building updates on the progress of the new College of Business and Economics, the Center for the Sciences, the Student Fitness and Wellness Center, and the renovation of Jefferson and Madison halls.
The president thanked faculty members for their dedication and their “passion as educators broadening the scope of knowledge and sharing it with students and colleagues.” She welcomed 23 new faculty members – “Welcome to the family!" – and introduced Dr. Katherine Hawkins, new dean of the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences; and Don Appiarius, associate vice president and dean of students.
Radford this fall is enrolling its largest freshman class, President Kyle said, and is awarding its first doctoral degrees – a statement that drew sustained applause. She closed her welcoming remarks by thanking and acknowledging Dr. Joseph Scartelli for his service as interim provost since January 2010.
“The presidency is not just the president. It is a group of people who get things done,” the president said, quoting former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She then recognized Scartelli as one of those people who get things done. She called him to the podium, and the audience rose to its feet, applauding and cheering as the two hugged.
The president then introduced Provost Sam Minner, who began his new position July 1, to give the keynote address.
Dr. Minner spoke about challenges facing higher education, including shrinking public and private funding, and tension between universities’ arts and sciences and their professional preparation programs. He urged “a new praxis of cooperation” among departments and disciplines, emphasizing that a university’s primary mission is to serve its students. He said Radford can find its niche – and may already have done so – by reaching out to unconventional students: adults returning to school, displaced workers, young people who are the first in their families to attend college, or those whose mastery of English is limited.
The provost encouraged his colleagues to welcome students of all backgrounds and all ability levels. Those students can succeed, he said, if their teachers have faith that they can learn and achieve. He emphasized the importance of reconnecting as individuals and as a community with the intellectual, the spiritual and the physical. In a surprise that delighted the audience, faculty members demonstrated each of those realms as the provost spoke of it.
Professor Justin Askins came to the podium to read Robert Frost’s “Directive.” The faculty jazz quartet – Christopher White on saxophone, Wayne Gallops on piano, Al Wojtera on drums and Joe Scartelli on bass – played a number that drew loud applause and cheers from the audience. And Margaret Devaney, professor of dance, took the stage and led the assembly through a series of exercises to music that began sedately and built to a fast pace that had the crowd on its feet and moving with the beat. President Kyle and Provost Minner, stationed in front of the audience, enthusiastically demonstrated each new move.
When the dancing ended and the audience was reseated, Minner closed his address by saying he hopes to be a servant leader in his new role and to help Radford continue its emphasis on teaching, discovery and service. The Outstanding Faculty Awards were then announced, and faculty members who together have brought in more than $10.5 million ($1 million or more each) for research and sponsored programs at Radford from governmental and private sources were recognized.
A reception at the Covington Center followed.