Reunion Collation Address

June 4, 2022
President Robert W. Iuliano
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

As Delivered.

Thank you, everyone! And thank you, Brian, for that kind introduction.

On our students’ very first day on campus, they partake in a beautiful Gettysburg tradition. 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 over their next four years 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 hundreds of cheering faculty and staff from across the College. Hundreds of Gettysburgians welcoming them to a place they will call home throughout their lives. It is joyous and supportive and so representative of what makes this place special.

This Reunion Weekend, I have felt very much like our first-year students. At every event, with every interaction, I have received the warm embrace of our alumni community. I want to thank you for welcoming me into the Gettysburg family. I am both honored and humbled to serve as the 15th president of this venerable institution, and I take seriously the responsibilities entrusted to me to advance our enduring mission.

Of course, with this being my first Gettysburg Reunion—almost three years into my tenure—I acknowledge that my experience has been far from ordinary! As Brian alluded, I chose a pretty interesting time to begin my presidency. But no matter the circumstances, I would choose Gettysburg every time.

And that is the hallmark of this institution. As Gettysburgians, we choose each other. We choose this community, time and time again.

One of my favorite activities as president is chatting with our students. In our conversations together, I’ll often ask them what they value most about their Gettysburg experience. To a student, they invariably tell me it is the people. The bonds they form with friends—classmates and roommates and teammates. This matters immensely to them, and it is what gives our campus its vibrancy.

By the way, those Bullets teammates have a lot to celebrate. Our athletics program had a great year! Women’s basketball hosted two rounds of the NCAA tournament and women’s lacrosse made a run all the way to the Final Four under the leadership of Carol Cantele, Class of 83, and Barb Jordan.

The lacrosse team’s success was a wonderful final chapter for two people who are retiring after remarkable careers at the College—Coach Cantele and Coach Jordan—and they are joined by Coach John Campo, following an illustrious career as the men’s baseball coach. Their retirements are well-deserved. We are deeply grateful to them—for the joy they have given to the campus but, even more so, for the lives they helped shape through their coaching and leadership.

Our students likewise speak to the mentorship of our devoted faculty. I’m sure even today, you have memories of a Gettysburg professor who profoundly shaped your life. I’ve found the relationship between our students and faculty to be quite distinctive. It is a partnership that is simultaneously challenging and supportive. It is inspiring to witness.

Let me give you an example.

During most of the year, if you’d walked past Penn Hall, you would have seen an archaeological dig taking place. At this dig site, a small house once stood in the 1860s that was occupied by a man named Jack Hopkins. You may know his story. Mr. Hopkins was the College’s first custodian and a pillar of Gettysburg’s Black community.

Throughout the year, our students worked shoulder to shoulder with their Anthropology faculty to unearth a number of incredible artifacts. You simply do not find this kind of student-faculty research at many other undergraduate institutions. Our students were literally invited to get their hands dirty! Indeed, it is our faculty’s belief in our students to Do Great Work, that in turn inspires this great work.

Our students also speak a lot about the connections they forge with you—our alumni, 32,000 strong—and how these connections open doors for them to pursue exciting internships and job opportunities.

In fact, thanks to our active alumni network, 9 out of 10 recent graduates today report that they are building a career in the field they’re most passionate about. That’s impressive for any school.

It’s also a big reason why in a Georgetown study that measured 40-year return on investment, Gettysburg ranked 33rd among all liberal arts and sciences colleges in country. This confirms what you already know: a Gettysburg degree only grows in value over time.

Again, this doesn’t just happen. It is because we as Gettysburgians choose to look out for each other and support our students in their endeavors. We see it in the lives and careers of our award-winners this morning and in your generous class gifts. It’s 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.

VIDEO: Gettysburg Network

This is what Gettysburg College is all about, and this is what we’re seeking to build upon through our recent strategic planning process. At the heart of our new strategic plan is a Promise—a promise we have made to our students since the College’s founding in 1832, but one we now seek to be 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 Gettysburgian gain a fuller understanding of who they are, what they want to accomplish, and how they will define and lead their own consequential life.

What makes this education so unique? Again, it is our people. And in the years ahead, we will double down on this institutional strength in a way few other colleges ever have. And by doing so, it is our goal that Gettysburg will provide among the most personal and student-centered educational experiences in the entire nation. One that is purposeful in bringing together all that our students do—in and out of the classroom—to ensure that they have all the tools necessary to thrive in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

It is an ambitious goal, to be sure, but one that is true to who we are and the values we espouse.

While we will publicly announce our new strategic plan later this year, you’re likely already seeing signs of its early impact.

Just this spring, we launched a new online master’s program in American history, in collaboration with the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Courses begin this fall. 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 of that.

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 February at the Majestic Theater, Gettysburg College will host the first-ever film festival dedicated solely to the award-winning works of Ken Burns. During the festival, Ken will speak with our students and the general public about issues of consequence to the nation. It is sure to be an amazing event. Tickets go on sale on June 17. We hope you can join us!

And as the College’s reputation continues to grow, so too does our national and international footprint. This coming year, Gettysburg will welcome its largest cohort of international students in history. Nearly 100 students from around the world who have dreamt of pursuing a Gettysburg education and who are eager to follow in the footsteps of Lincoln and Eisenhower on our hallowed ground. This is a sure sign of Gettysburg’s emerging influence globally. It’s encouraging to see.

So clearly, Gettysburg is on the move. We’re eager to build upon this momentum and to shine a light on this special institution. As such, we were honored to welcome Florida Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy as this year’s Commencement speaker. She gave a rousing address and, most importantly, the event proved to be a truly unforgettable celebration for our graduates. Take a look.

VIDEO: Commencement Highlights

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 lives of consequence, to make a meaningful impact.

In the years ahead, I want to see our institution take a similar courageous step. From a college endeared by 32,000 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 rallying others to join you.

Choose Gettysburg as a top philanthropic priority through your loyal support and service. The College is what it is today because of the many 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, time and time again…

I promise you there is nothing we cannot accomplish together—for our students, for our College, and for the broader good.

Again, I hope you have a wonderful Reunion Weekend. I look forward to building this bright future with you. Thank you.