President Rob Huntington addresses the Class of 2013
for the first time in August 2009 ...
The energy level was palpable when President Rob Huntington delivered his first Opening Convocation address to one of the largest freshmen classes in Heidelberg’s history on Aug. 27, 2009. Seiberling Gymnasium was packed, and “the new guy” felt as if all eyes were upon him.
“Given that it was my first robing (as president), my major focus was that I didn’t trip,” joked Huntington. “I remember that my speech was too long, but overall I have a very positive recollection.”
That day, the president and his “classmates” shared the dream that 1,351 days later, they would greet each other on the same platform for graduation. As he prepares to confer degrees on the Class of 2013, his wish for them hasn’t changed.
“My hope is that each of my ‘classmates’ finds their unique life of purpose with distinction and then fulfills it,” he said. “They have reminded me that we came in together and I’m happy I’m still standing after four years. It feels good. … I have loved these four years. They’ve been great. I look forward to maintaining these relationships for a long, long time.”
As an honorary member of their class, he’ll always feel a special connection with them, having bonded over two themes: change and confidence. “Over the last four years, we’ve all gone through significant change and so has Heidelberg University. That is life,” he said, adding that with change comes greater confidence.
The Class of 2013 witnessed and embraced transformation of the physical campus with the opening of Adams Hall, the Media Communication Center, a new residence hall and The University Commons and finally, the Saurwein Health & Wellness Center.
While Huntington won’t himself be graduating, he has fond memories of “his” class. “This is a highly engaged, very respectful group of young men and women,” he said, describing them as “wonderfully imaginative” in the areas of writing, research, acting, athletics, music and service. “They’ve always been willing to try new things.”
Together, they shared a myriad of experiences … the exhilaration of his inauguration in the fall of 2009 and the return of football to campus the next day … a convergence of rich talent in the areas of poetry, music and theatre as well as the great flood and freeze of the winter of 2011 … a trip to Germany to visit Heidelberg’s American Junior Year program and the opening of the new Residence Life & Learning Hall and The University Commons … candid, wide-ranging conversations at residence hall meetings, the growth in size and diversity of student participation in The Patricia Adams Lecture Series, the record-setting Student Research Conference and the intellectual exchange shared during Senior Honors presentations.
There were some trying times as well. The university community experienced the deaths of several iconic faculty members and two classmates. Those times, while difficult, were reminders of “the strength of the community coming together to celebrate life … to cry and laugh together” and to be present for each other.
... and enjoys the relationships he's made with his
"classmates" at the Back the Berg event.
With the approach of graduation, he has been contemplative about his memories of the Class of 2013. “I am remembering that I’m a member of this class more and more in these past few weeks. The most wonderful memories are about the relationships.”
One of the enjoyable memories occurred just two weeks ago, when seniors gathered at The University Commons for the annual Beyond the Berg event. He knew he has truly “arrived” when a group of seniors invited him to join their table. “They waved me over and were not embarrassed to have me sit with them. That was very kind,” he said.
Huntington has a final message for the soon-to-be alumni: Heidelberg needs each of them to stay engaged. “We all need all of our ‘selves,’” he said. “A family needs a family. We don’t just want you, we need you.
“It may be decades before we need one of our classmates to hold us, hug us, save us. Through the course of our lives, that day will come.”
That’s the beauty of being part of the Heidelberg Family.