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. Linden Lane
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Just beginning

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The inaugural freshman convocation

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On the evening of September 14, the University launched a new tradition with the Class of 2008—called First Year Academic Convocation—as a complement and bookend to Commencement. Some 2,000 freshmen processed from Gasson Hall to Conte Forum, where they heard from Paul Farmer, MD, whose innovative treatments for tuberculosis and AIDS have helped hundreds of thousands of patients in impoverished countries. Students also heard talks by Farmer's biographer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, and University President William P. Leahy, SJ. Freshmen were introduced to Farmer's work during summer orientation, when each was given a copy of Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World (2003), which chronicles Farmer's efforts in Haiti.

The idea for the student academic convocation surfaced nearly five years ago in conversations between freshman orientation director Fr. Joseph Marchese and Paul Doherty of the English department faculty. "We wanted to meet freshmen at a point in their lives when we could prick their interest and evoke in them an imaginative way of thinking about their lives," Marchese said. "Boston College does a wonderful job of bringing in ceremony, celebration, and tradition at graduation," said Dawn Overstreet, who works with Marchese. "This convocation ritualizes the beginning of an academic journey."

At the urging of convocation organizers, male students, who usually wear jeans and T-shirts on September evenings, dressed in chinos and collared shirts, while the women wore skirts or dress pants.

The theme of the evening was Ignatius's instruction to Francis Xavier before the latter set out for Asia: "Go set the world aflame." Kidder told the freshmen, "Don't worry about improving yourselves; worry about improving the world, however large or small that improvement may be. And if you do pull that off, you'll end up doing both." Farmer followed, saying, "Seeing your faces gives me hope—believing you will make the world more open, make it more even, make it more fair." He added: "I encourage you to resist the temptation to not know the world, and resist the temptation to amnesia and forgetting, and resist the temptation to close off those who are less fortunate than we are."

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