Wednesday evening, September 5, the University community welcomed
the Class of 2005 under a clear sky on College Green.
HERE>> FOR PROVOST BARCHI'S 2001 CONVOCATION ADDRESS
and Creating Whirlwinds
by Judith Rodin
join Penn's faculty, staff, and student leaders to welcome you officially
to the University of Pennsylvania. And congratulations to Dean Stetson
and his fabulous Admissions team for bringing to Penn this stellar
group of young men and women.
this gifted class of 2005: Congratulations, and welcome!
are likely the most talented class ever brought to campus.
are definitely the brightest group of students ever admitted to
I bet every one of you got wiser to the world way ahead of Candide.
wait; we are not ready to hand you your Penn diplomas just yet:
Like Candide, you are going to take a journey--a journey that will
ignite your imagination and expand your horizons. Each of you will
find the journey always challenging, frequently exhilarating, and,
yes, at times, incredibly exhausting.
as Robert Frost wrote, "There is no way out but through."
expect every one of you to make it through Penn and earn your degree.
You wouldn't be here if we had any doubt of that.
I hope you will pick up much more than a degree along the way. I
hope your journey through Penn will lead you toward a deeper cultivation
of your own humanity and a broader awareness of our common humanity.
hope you will take advantage of all that Penn and the great city
of Philadelphia have to offer to discover your own hidden talents
hope you will acquire both the power to succeed and the inclination
to serve others.
short, I hope something of the big man sitting in that chair-- (Benjamin
Franklin) rubs off on each of you.
Americans I know of made as much of their talents, gave as much
to their country, or expressed the full capacity of their own humanity
as deeply as our founder, Benjamin Franklin.
would like to share with you a slice of history from Franklin's
life that vividly illustrates an intrepid curiosity that we discern
in each of you. The year is 1755, and Franklin, accompanied by his
son and several other gentleman, is riding on horseback through
the Maryland countryside.
Franklin spots a small whirlwind beginning to gather force in a
valley below as it moves up the hill toward his riding party. By
the time it draws near to them, the whirlwind has reached a height
of 40 to 50 feet, and a diameter of 30 to 40 feet at its widest
have Franklin himself pick up the story from here:
rest of the company stood looking after it, but my curiosity being
stronger, I followed it, riding close by its side, and observed
its licking up, in its progress, all the dust that was under its
it is a common opinion that a shot, fired through a water-spout,
will break it, I tried to break this whirlwind, by striking my whip
frequently through it, but without any effect."
chases the whirlwind for three quarters of a mile into the woods,
"until" he writes, "some limbs of dead trees, broken
off by the whirl, flying about and falling near me, made me more
apprehensive of danger; and then I stopped."
is the essence of Benjamin Franklin. He was bold and curious enough
to track a dangerous weather phenomenon that others only looked
at. He investigated the whirlwind's unique properties, especially
its power to uproot and lift tree branches high into the air. He
learned that whirlwinds move in the opposite direction of the prevailing
winds. And he took pains to record his findings and expand our understanding
of meteorological science.
Franklin also knew when to stop. He knew the difference between
a calculated risk and a reckless experiment.
let's imagine how today's college students might react to Franklin's
ordinary student would say "Cool!" and take no further
might run for cover and wait for their professors to explain it
go to Princeton.
extraordinary student--driven by the same insatiable curiosity that
propelled Franklin to take a fuller measure of all phenomena in
his path--tears off after the whirlwind.
do you suppose these fearless storm chasers go?
right, they're right here at Penn, by the thousands. They continue
a Penn legacy of excellence that extends back to America's beginnings,
a heritage that, we proudly note, includes nine signers of the Declaration
of Independence and eight framers of the Constitution.
evening, you join their ranks. Indeed, welcoming you into our community
of scholars--our very special family--is what convocation is all
in my welcome message is an invitation and a challenge for each
of you as you now join the ranks of Franklin and other Penn ancestors
who helped conceive America's great democratic experiment and help
to shape the course of history: Stay awake--not just through all
the speeches, which may be a heroic feat in itself--but also to
the intellectual, social, and cultural whirlwinds that blow through
the Penn campus virtually every minute.
whirlwind can pop up anywhere in any form.
can be a class or even a single lecture that delivers you from the
purgatory of the undeclared or mismatched major and into the heavenly
light of academic delight.
can be a visit to Kelly Writers House that stirs your own creative
juices. It can be a late-night session in your College House that
plants the seeds for a history-making project.
can be a book you read or a conversation with a professor that changes
and wherever these whirlwinds appear, heed them and observe them
closely. Brave their bracing winds even if they blast you out of
your comfort zone or uproot some long-held belief or notion.
once you get the knack of spotting and chasing whirlwinds, before
you know it, you will be creating whirlwinds of your own, as many
Penn students already do now.
all four undergraduate schools, you will find students who have
been energized dramatically by the intellectual culture at Penn.
are pursuing bold new paths toward a deeper awareness of their own
abilities, which blossom into practical benefits for society.
the School of Nursing, for example, a senior from Kenya named Kisimbi
Thomas is a veritable cyclone of multi-tasking energy.
is earning a joint degree in Nursing and Health Care Management
at Wharton, as a pre-med major with minors in biology and political
past summer, Kisimbi performed research for one of Penn's elite
international research centers studying outcomes in health care
systems in the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, and
the Scandinavian nations. He is conducting an independent study
on international mobility of the health care workforce. And he is
a member of the Undergraduate Assembly and the Senior Class Board.
Kisimbi intends to return to Kenya to reform his country's health
care infrastructure and eventually become the president of Kenya!
I have no doubt.
there are the students in the School of Engineering and Applied
Science--the birthplace of the digital revolution--who do amazing
things with technology every day.
team of three Computer and Telecommunications Engineering students
took on a challenge unanswered by much more experienced engineers
and scientists: current algorithms designed for the classical computer
do not efficiently solve many well-known and important problems.
on the laws of quantum physics, these students developed an educational
software tool that teaches students the fundamentals of quantum
realized, quantum computation will yield solutions to these apparently
web-based tutorial system that these Penn undergraduates created
is named QUEST--for Quantum Computing Educational Software. QUEST
will now strengthen Penn's curriculum by providing students with
the tools to study the basic theory of quantum circuits, design
quantum circuits, and use animated simulations to test these circuits.
still in its infancy, quantum computing may some day revolutionize
computer and information science--and these superb Penn engineering
students will have helped awaken other students to its exciting
course, when it comes to whirlwinds, Wharton students also have
a way of cornering the market. Steven Davis, for example, has taken
the art and science of business education to a new dimension. Earning
a joint degree last spring in Operations Management at Wharton and
Aeronautics at SEAS, Steven earned honors as a Benjamin Franklin
Scholar, a University Scholar, and a Joseph Wharton Scholar.
at NASA the summer before his senior year, Steven tapped his business
and science education at Penn to design and present a plan to put
a telescope on the moon. He is set to pursue a master's degree in
Astronautics and Space Engineering in England as a Thouron Scholar,
and I expect we will be hearing a lot more about Steven in the years
also expect to hear a lot from our latest Rhodes Scholar, Lipika
Goyal. Lippy came to The College wanting to become a doctor, and
soon began dropping in on a wide variety of lectures at the Medical
School. Some she found dreadfully dull.
others she found inspiring. One lecture in particular--on infectious
diseases by Penn Professor Harvey Rubin--motivated her to devote
her medical career to helping underprivileged people in developing
lecture was Lippy's whirlwind. It led to summer research projects
in Ghana to study sickle cell disease and malaria, and to the slums
of South Delhi, India to study the effects of zinc deficiency on
early childhood development. It led to her discovery of a devastating
link that exists between physical sickness and societal sickness.
And it led her to Oxford, where she will spend the next two years
studying the economies, history, social anthropology and politics
of developing nations.
amazing students, and hundreds more like them at Penn, share much
in common with you: They sat where you sit now, hearing the call
to expand the body of knowledge at Penn and to cultivate their own
however, enjoy a distinct advantage. Enhanced amenities and the
steady advance of scholarship and technology offer you an enormous
range of opportunities and options that barely existed even four
the call that Penn issues to each of you--the call not just to be
a spectator, but a full-fledged participant in our community of
scholars -- that call remains the same.
you must decide how to answer this call. Nobody elsee--not I, not
the provost, not your faculty adviser, not even your parents--can
script your response.
I will leave you with a hint by way of an ancient fable that dates
all the way back to 1977, before you were born.
from a movie called Star Wars. Perhaps some of you have seen
the movie, the hero, Luke Skywalker, is preparing for his last and
most dangerous flight. Nothing much is riding on it except deliverance
from an Evil Empire and possibly the future of cosmic civilization.
this crucial moment, Luke hears the voice of his mentor, Ben Kenobi,
advise him to shut down his computers, trust his own instincts,
and tap into the Force.
of the Class of 2005, Penn is swarming with Ben Kenobis, wise men
and women of our outstanding faculty, who are here to engage you
and to be engaged by you.
Force at Penn is an energy field, a whirlwind of intellectual, cultural,
and humanitarian endeavor created by everyone who has lived, learned,
worked, and taught here.
stretches to the great city of Philadelphia, the birthplace of modern
energy field binds us together, across all schools and all the years.
It truly becomes a part of you--but only if you are awake to it.
wasted, blitzed, fried, plastered, or bombed, or even just get by,
and you're sure to miss out on what could be the greatest adventure
in your life.
is your time, this is your call, this is your flight.
the force of Penn be with you.
Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 3, September 11, 2001