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Kevin Barbary, class of 1985, urged MCLA's newest students to question conventional wisdom.
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President Mary Grant welcomed her last class to the college.
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Trustees Chairman Tyler Fairbank, right, welcomes students.

Welcomes & Farewells Mark MCLA 2014 Convocation

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The gates at MCLA opened to welcome the class of 2019 on Tuesday. More than 500 students are in this year's freshmen class, a 25 percent jump over last year. See more photos here.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts welcomed new students and said goodbye to President Mary Grant during the college’s convocation ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

More than 500 new students marched through the MCLA gates to hear a host of welcome speeches at the Church Street Center. Among the advice and guidance many of the speakers provided, one subject that weighed heavily in all their addresses was Grant’s impact on the college and how much she will be missed.

Grant will remain at MCLA for one final semester and then take a new position as chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Asheville

Kevin Barbary, Office Resources Inc. owner, a 1985 MCLA graduate and keynote speaker, said Grant completely changed the liberal arts college.

"Under Grant’s stewardship our school has flourished in so many ways it would be impossible to list them individually," said Barbary, who graduated two years after Grant. "Probably the most compelling tribute to her legacy is that I am sure there are dozens of students here today because President Grant put MCLA on your college radar, and you were smart enough to see … that President Grant transformed MCLA into a desired destination for students looking for the very best experience a public liberal arts college can provide."

Board of Trustees Chairman Tyler Fairbank said it is critical to find a new president who will continue Grant’s work.

"This year we do have another job and that job is to find the next president of MCLA," Fairbank said. "We have had 12 years with this phenomenal president, and I assure you that our national search will find a new president capable of continuing the trajectory of greatness that we are currently on."

Grant told the class of 2019 that she sees no better way to end her time at MCLA then to welcome a new class to the college.

"This is my last semester at MCLA, and I could not think of a better way to begin this final semester, final chapter of mine, and this piece of the story in MCLA then have the opportunity to welcome all of you to MCLA to this new chapter in your lives," Grant said. "You are in a very special place."

Last year, MCLA welcomed nearly 400 new students; this year, it's greater than 500. Grant said although most of the new students are from New England there are freshmen from Alabama, California, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada and Shanghai.

"Thirteen years ago was the start of my journey at MCLA, and I am pleased to tell you this journey has been amazing and enriching," Grant said. "I know that it will be for you too thanks to the wonderful members of this community you are now part of."

In Barbary's keynote address, he gave the new students advice for their upcoming college careers. He told them to not be afraid to draw from their past experiences to help them in the present.

"Today is the first time you will leave your cocoon and venture out into new world," Barbary said. "It will be a world of new people, new challenges, and exciting possibilities. As you take this step forward draw form your past to help guide you and remember the lessons you learned from the people you respect the most."

Barbary urged the students to get involved in extracurricular activities at MCLA.

"As you make your way through your journey, there are many different things outside of you academic structure that I would strongly urge you to consider," he said. "This school is a very special place, and it offers a host of opportunities that will allow you to expand your talents and your desires."

Barbary stressed creating relationships with teachers. He said he would not have realized his potential if he had not developed strong bonds with teachers who became friends.

"Make a point to try to develop a relationship with as many as your professors as possible because they represent one of the true treasures of MCLA," Barbary said. "Get to know your teachers and let them help you realize the potential I know you all have."

Reflecting on his own success, Barbary urged the students to challenge conventional wisdom and think outside of the box.

"Adhering to conventional wisdom will impede your ability to innovate and grow and just because someone in your life makes a claim or a statement that the general public agrees with, doesn’t mean it is true," he said. "Conventional wisdom has held people back for hundreds of years, and … if you challenge conventional wisdom you will find you will be able to do things much better than they were done in the past."

In conclusion, Barbary explained the importance of giving back.

"Even at your young age you can find ways to give back that don't require a lot of time or money," he said. "As you move forward in your life you will be judged by many people; if one of those judgments is you were a giver you should all be very proud."

Tags: convocation,   MCLA,   

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