Gustavus Begins its 162nd Academic YearThe College commenced the 2023-2024 academic year with an Opening Convocation celebrating light and community.
Posted on September 5th, 2023 by

Gustavus professors in regalia in Christ Chapel for Opening Convocation for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Gustavus professors in their regalia in the first rows in Christ Chapel.

It was a sunny day to consider light in the world as Opening Convocation kicked off the College’s 162nd academic year.

The ceremony began with a procession of faculty members representing the College’s academic departments, led by Dean of Faculty Development Pamela Conners with the staff of Eric Norelius (the College’s founder) cast in bronze. Cantor Chad Winterfeldt provided music for the processional.

“This is a place of welcome,” Chaplain Grady St. Dennis ’92 said of Christ Chapel as he welcomed the assembled students, faculty, and staff from many disciplines, cultures, life experiences, and traditions. “This is a place where diversity is a strength, and that includes religious diversity.” There was a moment of silence for Gustavus women’s hockey player and rising sophomore Jorie Jones, who died in a car accident weeks earlier, and the three other Gustavus student-athletes who were injured. After a gospel reading and a prayer, President Rebecca Bergman took the podium.

“You are the light of the world,” she said to all in Chapel, invoking Matthew 5:14. Then she asked, “What does light do for us?”Gustavus President Rebecca Bergman speaking.

As an engineer and a practicing Lutheran, she went on to list some of light’s functions. It dispels darkness. It allows us to see. “I think we can all agree that flashlight on our cell phones is handy.” Light provides warmth, and comfort when we are grieving. It guides us.

Then she asked, “What does it mean when you are the light of the world?” It means, she said, sharing your talents and passions with others, “so that they may see your good works.” She noted that the full verse—Matthew 5:14–16—goes on: “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” She asked, “Are we not [literally] a city on a hill?” Chapel, she noted, can be seen day and night. The lights go on when you walk into classrooms and other learning spaces on campus. Even the rouser predicts Gusties will shine. “It’s repeated six times!” she said.

She offered ways in which one can be a light to the Gustavus community this academic year. “Remember to smile. Be there for a friend. Notice if someone seems lost and help guide them on their way. Share your optimism. Share your passion. Show your kindness.”

This year’s Convocation was particularly well attended by the College’s new first-years—the Gustavus Class of 2027. They are about to embark on a liberal arts journey during which they will discover their talents, their passions, and their purpose in the world.

“Your talents and passions are your special light,” she told them. “You are all the light of the world, and don’t forget it.”

The hymn, “Praise the Source of Faith and Learning,” was sung, as is tradition. Chaplain Betsy Hoium gave a final blessing. Winterfeldt played a fanfare. The crowd walked out of Chapel and onto Eckman Mall, dappled by the sun.

Then it was off to class.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


Leave a Reply