Michael J. McDonald couldn’t contain his excitement. Unlike the four speakers who preceded him at the podium during Friday’s New Student Convocation, the 1991 Niagara University graduate wasn’t going to remain stationary when he addressed the Class of 2017.
McDonald, instead, removed the microphone from its stand, clutched it in his right hand and spoke enthusiastically about his time on Monteagle Ridge while pacing the stage.
As an alumnus and father of three current NU students – Michele, Michael Jr. and Megan – McDonald bleeds purple. This was a man who came to Niagara already engaged to his now-wife, Rosalie, and fell in love all over again.
“It’s four short years and it flies by,” said McDonald, a Lewiston resident who works as a national sales leader for Deloitte. “You have four years here – join a club, play intramurals and hang out under the ‘Taps.’ If you’re a resident student and you’re going out, walk the floor and make everyone go with you.
“Suck the marrow out of this place because when it’s gone, it’s gone. More than anything else, be happy. Love where you are. This is a wonderful place.”
The New Student Convocation, a Niagara tradition now in its 11th year, is the university’s ceremonial welcome to the newest members of its community. Designed as a bookend to commencement, it is an opportunity for new students to develop a true connection to the university and provides a chance for parents to share in an important transition in the lives of their sons or daughters.
Dr. Robert Kane, as the recipient of Niagara University’s 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award, was given with the opportunity to offer remarks to the new students on behalf of the faculty. The crux of Dr. Kane’s presentation: Don’t aspire to be average.
“It’s a highly competitive global job market out there and striving to be excellent will pay much bigger dividends over time,” noted Dr. Kane, a 10-year veteran of the history department. “Take risks. Being wrong in an interesting way is more important than finding the correct answer on a standardized test.”
Prior to reciting the Student Creed, another university rite of passage, Niagara University Student Government Association president Matthew Nadler implored the freshmen to make the most of their undergraduate experience.
“Take the time to enjoy Niagara,” Nadler pleaded. “As you begin the next four years, I assure you that they’ll be filled with happiness and sadness. Make those memories. One day, you’ll be standing where I am, as the NUSGA president. Think about what mark you want to make.”
The 2013 New Student Convocation was also the first presided over by the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M. Father Maher commenced his term as the university’s 26th president on Aug. 1.
His discourse began with a warm welcome to the Class of 2017, and proceeded with a request for the young men and women to give their parents a standing ovation, to which they obliged.
“Don’t take this opportunity for granted,” Father Maher said. “Your parents, your family, many in your life have made exceptional sacrifices to provide you with an opportunity to build your future. You can never repay them in full, but you can start making the down payment today.”
Father Maher then closed the event by echoing what had become a familiar sentiment during the convocation.
“Be people who know and follow your passion. Know why you’re on this earth and learn what you want to do. Take your passion and direct it toward your academic studies. Niagara University has tremendous faculty who are just waiting to assist you as students, as scholars, as leaders. Take this opportunity to learn from them and follow your passion.
“We have set the table for you in the banquet of life. You must come to that table and feast at that table.”