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President Whelan tells students “I will journey with you”  

Aug. 31, 2020 – Caldwell University kicked off the fall semester celebrating its new students at a virtual convocation on Aug. 31.

President Matthew Whelan, the university’s new president, welcomed the students acknowledging the COVID-19 “detours” and the students’ accomplishments.  “Never, ever forget this. You made it. You are here with us today because you made it… you made the decision to keep going.” 

President Matthew Whelan

He noted that he shares a unique bond with the members of the Class of 2024. “I want you to know I am right there along with you. Like you, I’m new.” 

The university is on a “90-day journey” to Thanksgiving, said Dr. Whelan, when in-person classes will finish up.  He urged the community to adhere to safety guidelines including wearing masks, social distancing and sanitizing.   

“I will journey with you,” said Dr. Whelan. “The world needs us at this moment. It needs you at this moment. It needs  your individual and collective wisdom and energy and enthusiasm and creativity, and it needs it now more than ever during these times of uncertainties.”  In such times, he said,  “you can always look to the things of which you can be certain.  Our faith. Our traditions. Our family. Today, you can be certain that you have joined the Caldwell University family. This family will be your guide.” 

The Caldwell family “will give you direction, will help you remain on course when you need to recalculate your route, and will do everything possible to make sure you get to your destination successfully,” said Dr. Whelan. The CU family “is firmly rooted in the Catholic Dominican traditions of the Sisters of Saint Dominic, a family ready to support you and to get to know you through our shared values of respect, integrity, community, and excellence.” He urged the students to take the time to learn about Caldwell’s mission and the Sisters of St. Dominic “who built this place into the university it is today, with much of that building taking place at a time when women weren’t valued as equal members of our society.” Yet, he said, “they kept on moving, taking small steps to help meet their goal.” 

President Whelan told the students that joining Caldwell University is a critically important first step. “Do you see your goals when you close your eyes? Can you actually see where you want to be? I know what my goal is, what the goal of the Caldwell family is–to ensure that you graduate, with a degree in hand, and job prospects awaiting you, the life you want awaiting you.” 

Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Whelan said, “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means keep moving.”

Student Government President Samantha Guerra read the community pledge, which acknowledges the crucial role everyone plays in keeping the campus community safe from COVD-19. The pledge is posted in all university classrooms and buildings.  She also led the students with a pledge affirming their support and commitment to the Catholic Dominican education.
Even though the convocation was remote, Darryl S. Aucoin, Ph. D., Assistant Professor of Chemistry, put on some of his regalia to feel the spirit of the new academic year and the occasion.

The university is welcoming over 520 incoming students, including 445 freshmen representing 14 states and 10 countries. It was a record-breaking year with 4,969 freshmen applications and 3,750 acceptances. Caldwell continues to enroll a diverse population of students with 68% of the incoming freshman identifying as students of color. 

Sister Kathleen Tuite, vice president for student life, explained that the students would be receiving a special pendant.  The image on the pin represents the relationship between the founders of the university, the Sisters of St. Dominic and Caldwell University.  “The red indicates the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the gold points to His kingship,”explained Sister Kathleen.  The motto “Sapientia et Scientia,” which means wisdom and knowledge is derived from the Litany of the Sacred Heart, she explained. 

“To all new students, may you display this coat of arms proudly throughout your relationship with Caldwell University.” The pendant “emphasizes the need for today’s student to be involved and to be a leader in today’s world,” said Sister Kathleen. 

Also recognized were students who made the Dean’s List for two consecutive semesters  in 2019-20.  “One of the pillars of the Dominican community is study and you have shown that you have recognized and embrace this standard,”said Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs  Ellina Chernobilsky,  Ph.D. She challenged the freshmen to live up to that ideal. “Make it your goal to be here next year to be recognized as being a Dean’s List scholar for both semesters.”  

Freshman Amanda Da Silva led the new students in the Class of 2024 prayer.

The invocation was given by Director of Campus Ministry Colleen O’Brien. Freshman Amanda Da Silva led the new students in the “Class of 2024 Prayer”. 

Professor Rebecca Vega, Assisant Marching Band Director John Piepoli and students in the Drum Line provided the music. 

As Sister Kathleen Tuite explained at the new student convocation, “Caldwell University was founded in 1939 by the Sisters of St. Dominic which the coat of arms reflects. The coat of arms captures the significance of a Caldwell University education in its colors, its motto, and its symbols.  The red indicates the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the gold points to his Kingship.  On the University Seal, the motto is imprinted on an open book which symbolizes Caldwell University as an institution of learning.  The university motto, “Sapientia et Scientia,” which means wisdom and knowledge, is derived from the Litany of the Sacred Heart.  The cross, which divides the whole into four parts, is taken from the coat of arms of the Order of Preachers (those who are the followers of St. Dominic) and it shows the relationship of the Sisters of St. Dominic as members of the Order of Preachers to Caldwell University. The golden sun which is found in the upper left corner,  is the symbol of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of all Catholic schools and particular patron of Caldwell University.

Invocation given by Campus Ministry Director Colleen O’Brien – “God, we ask for your blessing and guidance as we celebrate the beginning of the Class of 2024’s college careers. We give thanks to parents, families, friends, guardians, mentors, all who have helped make these great people who they are today. In the transition to Caldwell University, we ask that you bless the move with order and ease. And as we settle in, help us to open our hearts so that we might be ready to say “goodbye” to what was, and be open to what will be. We pray that we might be inspired by new places, new things, new people, new opportunities, new challenges. Grant us accepting hearts and open minds, and give us the courage to truly act as we are called to be in the world. We pray that the Class of 2024 will thrive academically, morally, and spiritually as they make the most of their Caldwell experience.” (adapted from Xavier University’s prayer resource page)