Marking the institution’s 75th anniversary – and after two-and-a-half years of overcoming pandemic-related obstacles – Daemen’s leaders welcomed a more traditional and recognizable version of the annual fall ceremony to greet the entering Class of 2022, transfer students, and their families in Lumsden Gymnasium on Saturday.
“Convocation is always a unique and memorable time of year at Daemen, especially so this year because of all the challenges we’ve met and will continue to meet together,” said Gary Olson, president of Daemen.
“Through convocation we do something deeply important,” he added. “We celebrate our common purpose, which is to provide each and every student a first-rate education no matter what. Over our seven decades, our college has shown resolve time and time again. … Our focus now is to build on that cherished tradition.”
A processional, led by a bagpipe-and-drum trio, saw hundreds of students led into the ceremony by faculty carrying new gonfalons – banners featuring the name of each of the university’s academic programs.
“We connect you to our past, our histories and traditions. We initiate you into a network of support and friendship that will follow you throughout your life,” said Greg Nayor, senior vice president of strategic initiatives. “It’s the start of your next chapter.”
Featured speaker David Johnson, a double alum of Daemen, spoke of his own journey as a first-generation college student. Raised in Detroit, as one of six children, Johnson attended college as a student-athlete, playing basketball for NCAA Division I program Canisius and then Division II Daemen.
“The game of basketball is similar to the game of life. You strive to be the absolute best you can be. You work hard at your craft. Blood, sweat, and tears pour into every moment with hopes of meeting the ultimate goal,” he said.
Johnson, who provides direct counseling and support to youth preparing for post-secondary education as a senior director at Buffalo Prep, provided guidance to first-year students – many of whom had just moved into Canavan Hall hours earlier.
“There’s a good chance you will have moments of uncertainty, frustration and desire to give up. Just remember, everything will be just fine,” said Johnson. “Take advantage of the opportunity in front of you. Don’t worry about what’s behind you. Make the most of what’s ahead.”
He added, “And make sure you go to class.”
That sentiment was echoed in conclusory remarks by Nayor, who asked students to picture themselves walking across the graduation stage in four years’ time with a degree in one hand and “a fistful of opportunity” in the other.
“At Daemen, we are here for you. We legitimately care about you and want nothing more than to see you succeed,” he said. “But we can only get you so far. At the end of the day, none of us can want this experience more than you want this experience. You have to do that.”