2014-2015 Academic Year Gets Underway

August 27, 2014

L-R: Provost Joseph Favazza, Professor Chris Wetzel and his wife Michelle, and President John Denning, C.S.C.

Stonehill celebrated the start of the 2014-2015 academic year at its annual Academic Convocation in the Sally Blair Ames Sports Complex on Tuesday, August 26.

The members of the Class of 2018 as well as transfer students were formally welcomed to the College at the ceremony. Professor of Religious Studies Rev. Richard Gribble, C.S.C. delivered the keynote address and Associate Professor of Sociology Christopher Wetzel was honored with this year’s Louise F. Hegarty Award for Excellence in Teaching. Also speaking at the ceremony were Senior Class President Austin Alfredson ’15, who presented President John Denning, C.S.C. with the senior class shovel, and student speaker John Walent ’15.

Bringing Light & Hope

On behalf of the senior class, Walent welcomed the Class of 2018 to Stonehill and introduced Fr. Gribble as the keynote speaker.

“What makes Fr. Gribble such an amazing man is the love he shows students through his passion for teaching,” said Walent. “Nothing delights (Fr. Gribble) more than watching (students) succeed. His passion and determination to watch students grow and succeed is what makes him such a great professor.”

Fr. Gribble, who has been teaching at the College since 1995 and is the author of over 20 books on American church history and spirituality, addressed the importance of Stonehill’s mission.

“Stonehill calls students to ask deep and profound questions about ourselves and our world,” he said.

“Seek what you need at Stonehill to be the person you are called to be… you must never give less than 100% in any endeavor,” he told students.

In closing, Fr. Gribble urged everyone at Stonehillto carry out the College’s motto of Lux et Spes (Light & Hope).

“Bring light to an often dark and clouded world and hope to a world community too often found in despair. This is our challenge and goal.”

Inspiring to Aspire

The Hegarty Award is given annually to the faculty member whose teaching has had a marked influence on the lives of Stonehill students. The Committee on Excellence in Teaching, representing students, faculty, and the Alumni Council, selects the outstanding teacher from those nominated by students and faculty members. 

This year’s winner, Professor Wetzel, has taught at the College since 2009 and is the 26th recipient of the Hegarty Award.

In presenting the award to Wetzel, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joseph Favazza read excerpts from faculty and student nominations.

One of Chris’ quotes will always be instilled in my mind: “Change is hard, but not impossible.” To many others and myself, Chris Wetzel is not only a professor at Stonehill, but also an agent of change, and one that encourages every student to do the same.

Chris’ working and teaching style is a great illustration of our values as a student-centric institution that believes every student is capable of creating a more just and compassionate world.  He has guided me in my vision of social justice and activism by helping me to realize my voice as a student and part of this community.  He is not only a faculty member, but also a mentor who I can relentlessly count on.  Professor Wetzel inspired me to aspire.

In accepting the award, Wetzel gave thanks to his students, saying “I learn a lot every day from you, so indeed, the inspire to aspire works both ways.”

Chair of the Sociology and Criminology Department since 2012, Wetzel shares a passion for social justice with students at the College and has been an active participant in the life of the College.

Wetzel makes a point to involve students in his research, and has worked with them on numerous other projects. One such highlight is the creation of the IDEAS (Integrating Democratic Education at Stonehill) Program, which puts students in front of the classroom, leading discussions on a wide-range of topics with their peers.

Fueling Innovation

Presenting the senior class shovel to Fr. Denning, a tradition which celebrates the College's historical connection to the Ames Shovel Company, Alfredson explained his choice of a 1926 four star Ames breakdown shovel.

“The shovel was used to breakdown coal during the 20th century which fueled innovation for years to come. It’s important for us to do the same- break down the things that hold us back in order to fuel our futures,” said Alfredson.

Cultivating a Living Classroom

In his closing remarks, Fr. Denning referenced this year’s Stonehill Faculty Focus booklet which explored “Cultivating a Living Classroom,” a study of how Stonehill faculty members are finding innovative ways to tie The Farm at Stonehill to the lessons they are teaching in the classroom.

“Those words have stayed with me as they conjure up an image of great collaboration between faculty and students, an openness to creative thinking and intellectual debate and discussion,” said Fr. Denning in reference to the book’s title.

“As we begin this year let us set out to truly cultivate a living classroom, let us become immersed in our learning and our research,” Fr. Denning declared.

Stonehill is a place “where sights are raised, horizons broadened and students are challenged to grow in wisdom, and grace. This is what we rededicate ourselves to as we gather here to begin our 67th academic year,” said Fr. Denning in closing.