June 3, 2023
President Robert W. Iuliano
Thank you, everyone! And thank you, Jim, for that kind introduction.
On our students’ first day on campus, they participate in a beautiful Gettysburg tradition—one many of you experienced. Following Opening Convocation, every student ascends the steps of Pennsylvania Hall and officially enters our academic community. It is a journey symbolic of the social and intellectual growth they will experience here.
But perhaps the most moving part of the tradition is what happens next.
When our students reach the other side, they are greeted by cheering faculty and staff from across the College. Hundreds of Gettysburgians welcoming them to a place they will call home for the next four years and every day after. [Turns to celebrated alumna Evelyn Fluck Babylon, Class of 1948] …Even 75 years after their graduation.
Our people make the place.
As Gettysburgians, we choose each other. We support one another. We cheer one another. We lift one another up.
It’s what makes Gettysburg College unlike anywhere I’ve ever experienced.
One of my favorite activities as president is talking with our students. In our conversations together, I’ll often ask them what they value most about their Gettysburg experience. To a student, they tell me it’s the people. The bonds they form with their friends and classmates and teammates. This matters enormously to them—and it brings a vibrancy to our community.
People, community, teammates. If you wanted to see all of this on display, there is no more vivid example than that of our women’s lacrosse team—who once again earned their way into the NCAA championship game. There are 293 women’s lacrosse teams in Division III, but only two were playing last Sunday, and the Orange and Blue was one of them.
They’re led by a first-year head coach, Charlotte Cunningham, following a legend in Carol Cantele, who is celebrating her 40th reunion with her classmates this weekend. It’s clear the future for the team is bright under Charlotte’s leadership.
The lacrosse team was not alone—our entire athletics program had a great year! Women’s basketball and women’s golf secured Centennial Conference titles and junior Holly Ferrara earned All-American honors in the javelin for the second year in a row. She is one of 11 Gettysburg All-Americans this year.
Coaches like Charlotte have a lasting impact on our students—so too does our devoted faculty. I’m sure even today, you have memories of a Gettysburg professor who profoundly shaped your life.
Gettysburg students want to do it all. They want to get involved. We see it in our alumni too. One or two majors and minors, service and study abroad, co-curricular and extracurricular activities.
What is so transformative in my eyes is that our professors are intentional about partnering with our students to help them see the connections between their many passions and in encouraging students to reach even higher in their pursuits.
Indeed, it is our faculty’s belief in our students to Do Great Work, that in turn inspires that great work.
Here’s a video that speaks powerfully to how we are teaching our students to connect every aspect of their Gettysburg education.
Our students also speak a lot about the connections they form with you—our alumni—and how these connections open doors for them to pursue exciting internships and job opportunities. Just take Laura Habecker.
Laura will celebrate her 10th Reunion with her BOLD classmates in October. Like so many of our graduates, she credits the skills she learned at Gettysburg and our alumni network for her career success.
A history major and Spanish minor, Laura graduated with a passion for film and television. When she reached out to Joe Lynch to see if any alums were working in the industry, Joe offered her a list of names. In the following days, Laura wrote to every single alum on the list—and get this, in typical Gettysburg fashion, every single alum responded with an eagerness to help.
Today, Laura is the Post-Production Supervisor for the Emmy Award-winning series, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” And now, it’s Laura who is the first to reply to our students and graduates when they reach out.
This level of care and support defines Gettysburg College.
In fact, our alumni network is a big reason why Gettysburg was just ranked #21 by the Princeton Review for its value, among all liberal arts and sciences colleges in the nation.
Again, this doesn’t just happen. It is because we as Gettysburgians choose to look out for each other. We see it in our students. We also see it in the lives and careers of our award-winners this morning and in your generous class gifts. It’s part of what makes our education so dynamic. It’s the thread that runs from class to class, decade after decade.
Let’s hear a few Gettysburgians share what this value has meant to them.
This is what Gettysburg College is all about, and this is what we’re seeking to build on in the years ahead. At the heart of our new Strategic Direction is a promise—a promise we have made to our students since the College’s founding in 1832, but one we now are being even more purposeful in naming and living: the promise of A Consequential Education.
A Consequential Education is what prepares our students to Do Great Work in the world. It’s what helps every student gain a fuller understanding of who they are, what they want to accomplish, and how they will define and lead their own consequential life.
So, what makes our education consequential? It is 3 things.
First and foremost, it is our people. The partnerships that form here. The belief we have in each other. This global community of Gettysburgians and how we care for one another and support one another.
Second, it is our place. These hallowed grounds that inspire us to take up the “unfinished work” of our time. And our proximity to major cities of influence that position us to advance this work.
And finally, it is our distinctive approach to teaching and learning—what we call The Gettysburg Approach. You may have read about it in the latest issue of the magazine. This is where we are dedicating our efforts and it’s also the focus of our new comprehensive fundraising campaign.
Let me say a word about the Gettysburg Approach and why I’m so excited for what it promises for our students.
It is predicted that this generation of students will change jobs 17 times and change industries 5 times over the course of their careers. Just think about that. We need to prepare them for that future.
The Gettysburg Approach builds within every student a breadth and depth of knowledge and set of enduring skills to prepare them for a world marked by change.
We can’t just prepare students for their first job. We need to prepare them for the entirety of their career—10, 20, 40 years into the future—for jobs that haven’t even been dreamt of yet. And likewise, we need to prepare them for a world that needs their leadership, their engagement in issues that matter. In living a consequential life.
Everything our students will learn at Gettysburg—inside and outside of the classroom—will connect back to what employers and graduate programs desire most: those transcendent qualities that are the hardest to teach: Leadership, teamwork, intercultural fluency, communication, problem solving, creativity, adaptability.
And knowledge and skills will be reinforced through our more intentional and curated co-curricular experiences, through what we’re calling our Guided Pathways. Beyond that, every incoming student will be supported by their own Personal Advising Team, consisting of a Faculty Advisor, a Co-Curricular Advisor, and a Career Advisor, and after their sophomore year, an Alumni Mentor.
On the one hand, I know of few other schools focusing so purposefully on amplifying the learning impact of co-curricular activities and the curation of these enduring skills. And, yet, what we’re doing is so distinctively us, making full use of the type of supportive community we have here and the impulse of students to get involved.
The Gettysburg Approach is Gettysburg at its finest.
You’re likely already seeing signs of our Strategic Direction’s early impact.
This year, we launched a new online master’s program in American history, in collaboration with the Gilder Lehrman Institute in New York City. The program is open to all K-12 teachers across the United States affiliated with the GLI. Given that this represents more than 60,000 teachers—and these teachers engage with nearly 8 million students every year—our new master’s program provides a very real opportunity for us to strengthen American democracy for the better. We’re proud to be graduating our first class of master’s students this July here on campus.
By working to build a better world and a stronger democracy, we are also beginning to garner the attention of leaders who have devoted their lives to this important work. Leaders like renowned documentarian, Ken Burns.
This past February, Gettysburg College hosted the first-ever film festival dedicated solely to the award-winning works of Ken Burns. During the festival, Ken spoke with our students and the general public about issues of consequence to the nation.
As Ken stressed to our students, and I quote, “It’s important for us in our busy and distracted lives to remember what happened here. So much of who we are as a country is born here and articulated here and suffered here.”
This same sentiment was expressed by this year’s Commencement Speaker, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. The Deputy Secretary gave a rousing address. The event proved to be a truly unforgettable celebration for our graduates. Take a look.
Let me conclude.
I began my comments today by speaking of our students’ procession at Opening Convocation. This great tradition is, of course, bookended at Commencement—when our graduates process back through Pennsylvania Hall and out into the world, to lead consequential lives.
In the years ahead, I want to see our institution take a similar courageous step. From a college endeared by 32,000-alumni strong to a college revered across the country and around the world.
Gettysburg is a special place. And your alma mater is poised to impact society in immeasurable ways.
This morning, my ask of you is simply this: Continue to choose Gettysburg.
Choose Gettysburg by championing our education in your communities, in your workplaces, and online. Inspire a future student to attend Gettysburg!
Choose Gettysburg by being engaged, getting involved, and encouraging others to join you.
Choose Gettysburg as a top philanthropic priority through your loyal support of the Gettysburg Fund and other priorities of interest to you. The College is what it is today because of generations of dedicated alumni, like you.
And lastly, choose Gettysburg by living our mission in all that you do.
If we continue to choose each other…
If we continue to choose this community…
I promise you there is nothing we cannot accomplish together—for our students, for our College, and for the broader good.
As one of my predecessors, President Milton Valentine, Class of 1850, put it so succinctly, “Our work lies invitingly before us.”
Again, I hope you have a wonderful Reunion Weekend. I look forward to building this bright future with you.