President Gibson Speaks on Citizens’ Responsibilities at 75th Annual Convocation
On Tuesday, August 21, 2018, The King’s College held its 75th annual Convocation ceremony to welcome the incoming class of 2022.
On Tuesday, August 21, 2018, The King’s College held its 75th annual Convocation ceremony to welcome the incoming class of 2022. Nearly two hundred new students gathered at St. Paul’s Chapel, on Broadway and Fulton St., to celebrate the start of their college career and to sign the Honor Code. House student leadership teams, the student cabinet, faculty, and staff attended to cheer the incoming students’ entrance into The King’s College community.
Dr. Robert Carle, professor of religious and theological studies, delivered the invocation, and Prof. Virginia Pike, lecturer of musical theater, led the singing of the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.” May Overmyer (PPE ’19), the 2018-19 student director of spiritual life, read from Romans 8. Provost Dr. Mark Hijleh then welcomed incoming students, seated by House beside their House flags, and introduced Henry Morriello, a 1976 alumnus of The King’s College and a member of the Board of Trustees.
Morriello delivered an introduction of the seventh president of The King’s College, Brig. Gen. Tim Gibson, whose appointment had been announced earlier that day. Gibson has served in executive leadership at King’s since 2016 after retiring from a career in the United States Air Force. He began serving as acting president on December 1 while the sixth president, Dr. Gregory Alan Thornbury, assumed the role of chancellor to help the transition into Gibson’s confirmation as president. (Thornbury has since stepped down from the chancellorship to give attention to scholarly and artistic pursuits, including post-publication opportunities related to his book on the Christian rock-and-roll artist Larry Norman, but he remains a friend and supporter of the College.)
Gibson received a standing ovation at the close of Morriello’s introduction. Morriello then asked Gibson and his wife Nancy to approach the stage, and he presented to Gibson the presidential medallion, “a symbol of the responsibility, strength, and unity denoted by the office of the president.” Nancy Gibson was presented with flowers, and Morriello led the congregation in a prayer for the Gibsons in their formalized role at the College.
President Gibson’s convocation address was titled “Citizens or Subjects?” He began by remarking on the historic St. Paul’s church, which was the target of criticism when it was constructed. Colonial-era commentators asked why the vestry of the church had constructed “so large and ornate a building in a place so remote and sequestered, so difficult of access, and to which the population could never extend.” Humor aside, Gibson said that “it is impossible not to draw parallels between the foundations of the United States of America and those of The King’s College.” Both endeavors were “resolutely countercultural”; both took place in a city that has been called “the capital of planet earth.” Both foundings were defined by the difficult pursuit of virtue, faith, and freedom.
In the pursuit of faith and a virtuous life, freedom is a necessary element, Gibson said, quoting Os Guinness: “Genuine faith cannot be forced.” To new students about to sign the Honor Code, Gibson urged that they remember that a commitment to a life of honor is a voluntary choice, a “commitment to a way of life, and to a community designed for human flourishing.” For students to make the most of the opportunities for growth at King’s, they must make a personal choice to participate in the spirit behind the standards of the community. “A citizen takes ownership of his community and holds himself to a standard of morals and virtue. A subject looks to the authority for help, but doesn’t think about exercising his energy to improve his community,” Gibson said.
The Honor Code of The King’s College states, “A student of The King’s College will not lie, cheat, or steal, or turn a blind eye to those who do. Every student is honor-bound to confront any other student who breaches the Honor Code.” Student Body President Brandon Smith (PPE ’19) charged new students to see this code of honor, and the accompanying community standards of King’s, as an opportunity to practice love, forgiveness, and repentance. Rather than making the “confrontation” in the Honor Code a matter of legalism, Smith asked that students hold one another accountable in a spirit of love. “By signing the Honor Code, you’re not agreeing to follow this rule and this code simply because it is there: you are agreeing to pursue the character of Christ,” Smith said. Students from each of the ten Houses in turn came to tables in front of the church to sign their names on the Honor Code, and House leadership teams and staff and faculty advisors stood on to give hugs and handshakes.
In closing, Pike led all those present in the Alma Mater hymn of The King’s College and the Doxology, and Dr. Anthony Bradley, associate professor of religious studies, closed with the benediction from Hebrews 13:20-21: “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.”