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​Dr. Charles R. Toth, associate professor of biology, delivered
the keynote address on HeLa cells, the subject of this year's
Freshman Common Reading Program selection.

Convocation Opens New Academic Year

College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80 welcomed more than 1,000 freshmen and transfer students and 27 new faculty at the Academic Convocation on Tuesday, September 4, by citing the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas on teaching and learning.

For students, the principal cause of learning is not the teacher, but the student, who must bear responsibility for his or her own education, Shanley said. For their part, teachers must remember that leading students to the truth begins with understanding what the students know, and what they think they know, he added.

Father Shanley noted that Aquinas’ writings were contained in the section of the Summa Theologica that considers how God governs the universe — meaning Aquinas saw teaching as part of divine providence.

“God has brought you together with the faculty and these new teachers,” Father Shanley told the students. “May that providence bless your year.”

Convocation, marking the official start of the academic year, drew 1,500 students, faculty, and staff to the Peterson Recreation Center, and was followed by a reception in Slavin Center. The new students received a blessing from Father Shanley and a Veritas pin.

A focus on common reading

The keynote speaker, Dr. Charles R. Toth, associate professor of biology and department chair, offered insights into how HeLa cells have contributed to the study of science. During the summer, the College community joined incoming freshmen in reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the book chosen for this year’s Freshman Common Reading Program.

In “How Henrietta Lacks Changed Science and Society,” Toth discussed how informed consent procedures have changed since the 1950s, how genetic testing is now available by mail order, and how Lacks’ cells contributed to advances in medicine, including the development of the polio vaccine and chemotherapy drugs.

“Are we in a better place today than we were 50 years ago?” Toth asked, noting that in parts of the country, vaccination rates are decreasing, and that in North Carolina, lawmakers outlawed consideration of sea-level rise when deciding whether to approve development. He encouraged all freshmen to include additional science courses in their studies.  

Winners of the Freshman Common Reading Program essay contest were announced. First prize went to Christina Perri ’16 (Holbrook, N.Y.) for “It’s MY Body: The Biomedical Ethics of Cell and Organ Harvest.”

The second prize winner was Alyssa Kinney ’16 (Berlin, N.H.) for “The Education Gap.” Two students shared third prize: Kailyn Jennings ’16 (Pulaski, N.Y.) for “Privacy Versus Safety: A Democratic Nation’s Struggle to Find a Balance” and Nicholas Tavares ’16 (Seekonk, Mass.) for “The Injustice of Ignorance.”

In his greetings to the new students, Justin Gomes ’13 (New Bedford, Mass.), president of the Student Congress, encouraged them to learn as much as they could about their classmates, a process he said would allow them also to discover themselves.

What’s most important, Gomes said, “is how you take what you learn to make a difference in the lives of those around you.” 

Other students taking part in the ceremony were James Brodeur ’14 (Forestdale, R.I.) and Heidi Fraitzl ’14 (Bedford, N.H.), as cantors; Chelsea Kane ’13 (Simsbury, Conn.), who sang The Star Spangled Banner; and Eliza Mandzik ’13 (Burlington, Conn.), who sang the alma mater.

New faculty introduced

The winner of the Joseph R. Accinno Faculty Teaching Award, Chard deNiord, professor of English, was introduced, along with the new Rev. Robert J. Randall Distinguished Professor in Christian Culture, Dr. Reinhard Huetter, a professor of Christian theology at Duke Divinity School.

Dr. Hugh F. Lena, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, led department chairs in their introduction of 27 new full-time faculty, including the new dean of the School of Business, Dr. Sylvia Maxfield, professor of management.

The new teachers, who come from 23 graduate schools and six foreign countries, are:

• Art and Art History: John A. Fazzino, adjunct assistant professor

• Accountancy: Dr. Sonia Gantman, assistant professor

• Biology: Dr. Sarah Perdue, adjunct assistant professor

• Chemistry: Dr. Seann P. Mulcahy, assistant professor

• Computer Science: Dr. Adam H. Villa, assistant professor

• Education: Dr. Anthony M. Rodriguez, assistant professor

• Engineering-Physics-Systems: Dr. Dennis W. Garvey, adjunct assistant professor

• English: P. Dzvinia Orlowsky, adjunct assistant professor

• Foreign Language Studies: Dr. Louissa Taha Abdelghany, adjunct assistant professor

• Global Studies: Dr. Eric M. Hartman, adjunct assistant professor

• History: Dr. Robin J. Greene, assistant professor

• Management: Dr. Tim Noparumpa, assistant professor, and Dr. John J. Schibler, assistant professor

• Marketing: Dr. Scott A. Wright, assistant professor; Beth L.A. Hamilton, adjunct instructor; and Janet M. Letourneau, adjunct instructor

• Military Science: Lt. Col. Kevin R. Kugel, professor, and Major Michael P. Moricas, assistant professor

• Philosophy: Dr. Anthony K. Jensen, associate professor, and Dr. Jeffrey L. Nicholas, assistant professor

• Political Science: Dr. Matthew P. Guardino, assistant professor

• Psychology: Dr. Eliane M. Boucher, assistant professor

• Sociology: Dr. Abigail T. Brooks, assistant professor and director of the Women’s Studies Program

• Theatre, Dance, and Film: Renina Flores, assistant professor

• Theology: Rev. James G. Sabak, O.F.M., the first Franciscan to join the full-time faculty, and Dr. Daria E. Spezzano, assistant professor

— Vicki-Ann Downing



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