August 23, 2019
Twenty-eight years ago, in the fall of 1990, I was in the position that many of you find yourself today – a first-year college student. Some of you have come to Mansfield University being very familiar with campus, as many of you come from Tioga and the surrounding counties. Your parents or family members may be alumni of the University, some stretching back for generations. Some of you are familiar with Mansfield University because this is where you participated in baseball, music, soccer or football camp. However, for many of you, this is the first time outside of a Visit Day or Orientation Day that you have truly spent an extended and uninterrupted period of time on campus. That is, if you count the last 24 hours you have spent on campus as a significant period of time.
As a new student I was very nervous about being on a college campus. Going away to college was not something my parents and I spoke about at the dinner table with much regularity. My mother was a self-taught entrepreneur who started her own businesses while still a teenager. My father was a police officer who fled a life of poverty by joining the Navy as soon as he was eligible. However, both of my parents understood that college provided many opportunities in life that they were not otherwise afforded.
My parents did emphasize they need for education and made sure that I was provided with a foundation of learning that would allow me to become whatever I wanted to be, and I can never repay them for this, except to pay it forward by making a difference in the lives of others. But you did not come here to listen to my origin story, and the full story is a much longer novel, so let me flash forward to today.
You have chosen Mansfield University as your place, your home, your campus. I strongly believe that you have made a very wise choice. Like many of you, I visited the Mansfield University campus a few times as I sought this and other opportunities to continue my career as a university president. I have been recruited to serve as a president at other institutions, but none moved me in the same way that Mansfield University has moved me. Mansfield has taken ahold of me in a way that can only be described as a true call to service.
Many people have asked where I came from before moving to Mansfield. When I tell them Washington, DC their response is almost always, “Wow, that must be a major culture shock compared to Mansfield, Pennsylvania.” My response is simply, “Washington, DC… Have you watched the news recently?” Honestly, I fail to find what is so shocking about being on a beautiful, historic campus founded in 1857, set in the scenic Endless Mountains, with dedicated faculty and staff helping educate students who seek a world-class education.
Perhaps the only thing shocking about this situation is that Colleen and I had not found Mansfield University sooner! We have both lived in small communities and large metropolitan cities like Dallas, Texas and Boston, Massachusetts, where great emphasis is placed on the
school you attend, your family background, religion and ethnicity. At Mansfield University, we care about you, the individual. We care about where you want to go in life, not where you have been, and we are dedicated to helping you accomplish your dreams.
To be clear, however, you will be challenged. You will need to put in the work necessary to move you from where you are today to where you wish to be tomorrow. This includes studying, becoming engaged in activities that allow you to become a well-rounded adult, a good degree of self-care, and overcoming obstacles that will – without a doubt – get in your way.
Every day will be a new day and every day will have challenges. It will be up to you to scale some obstacles you know you can overcome through perseverance, and to seek assistance from others – friends, family, fellow students, faculty, staff, or even your president – when you need help overcoming some obstacles that might seem insurmountable. Like many of you, I too live on campus, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am one of the most accessible presidents you will encounter. To reinforce this, I want to provide you with my personal cell phone number (provided). You can also follow me on Twitter at the handle @CEPattersonJr.
Mansfield University is a caring community, so never be afraid to reach out your hand for assistance.
To our faculty and our staff, please allow me to use the remainder of my time to thank you for your support of our all of our new and returning Mountie students. You, have persevered through a some difficult years of constant change and leadership transitions. Together, we will create an environment of stability and sustainable growth as Mansfield University reinforces itself as an affordable destination campus serving the Northern Tier, the State of Pennsylvania and beyond. The young men and women who sit among you today represent a population of nearly 460 first-time students that have selected Mansfield University as their destination of choice. As of this morning, our fall 2019 total enrollment exceeds the fall 2018 total enrollment by 2.7%. We are growing, and we will continue this trajectory in the coming year. These students are the reason that we have dedicated our lives to teaching, scholarship and service. These students, and the many students that follow in the years to come, are our future. So let me close with this thoughtful challenge:
We have been given this mountain that we call Mansfield University to show others that it can be moved.
I have no doubt that together, we will elevate Mansfield University to new heights; we will provide opportunity for our current students and our new students that sit among us today to become successful graduates; and we will continue to make our alumni proud to be called Mansfield University alumni.