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2019 Convocation Remarks by President John Fry

September 26, 2019

Good morning, and welcome to all faculty and professional staff, those who are returning — and those who are with us for the first time today. Greetings to those trustees with us today, notably our board chair, Richard Greenawalt, and trustees Stan Silverman and David Geltzer.

All around us on campus this morning, there are thousands of new and returning students, some beginning their university careers, others stepping into new professional or graduate training. Some have traveled across town to be here, others have come from around the world. This is their time and I know that we are just as excited as they are to experience the start of the new academic year at Drexel.

When I looked out across Korman Quad yesterday, it was impossible not to feel a palpable sense of promise and anticipation. There were clusters of students in front of the Korman Center, talking and comparing notes, and many others sitting in the Adirondack chairs or stretched out on the grass, laptops propped open in front of them. And, of course, many more

students and faculty moving quickly through the heart of campus to their next class.

It’s at times like that I feel acutely the sense of purpose that is our mission at this University. I also experience that when we gather at Convocation.

This is a special tradition.  And this year, it brings a new milestone — because we are preparing

to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Drexel co-op program. Co-op was the perfect way for Drexel to support the post-war economy when it started in 1919, and 100 years later.

Our cooperative education model is still perfectly suited for the times. It blends real-world work experience with state-of-the-art classroom instruction.

In founding this University, Anthony J. Drexel envisioned an institution that was uniquely suited to the needs of a rapidly growing and changing society. That still holds true today.

We know that the more dynamic the job market becomes, the more employers will look for unique skill sets, and our Co-op program prepares students to tackle society’s most complex issues and find their place in the constantly changing workforce of the future.

It has often been said that the best way to learn is by doing. And we know that the doing also informs how we learn. That’s part of our greatness as an institution.

Our co-op students learn on the job, and then they bring their work experiences back to the classroom, helping to enrich discussions with their peers and professors. And that, in turn, helps them hone even better the skills that employers want – like critical thinking and team-based problem solving.

And so the cycle of learning continues, on campus and on co-op. This is what A.J. Drexel intended, for this University to be a place with one foot in the world and one foot in the halls of learning.

Of course, co-op is far from the only special dimension we have at this University. You see it in our stellar faculty, with their applied solution-centered research and extraordinary entrepreneurial energy. And you see it in the rich tradition of civic engagement that can be seen in  literally every academic department at this University. 

This richness of spirit is part of the unique culture of Drexel University, and to see it so alive as I walk through Korman Quad fills me with pride, hope and humility. 

I wish you all the very best for this academic year. I know we can meet any challenge.

To give us more perspective on the broad sweep of co-op, we are also fortunate to have a distinguished historian with us this morning. Scott Knowles is the head of the history department, and an outstanding professor.

If there were a ‘Mr. Drexel’ title — as far as the history of this University — Scott would winthe honor, having co-authored the definitive book on Drexel’s history for our 125th anniversary.

Scott is a trusted friend and colleague, and I look forward to hearing his thoughts on the 100th anniversary.

And perhaps by looking back, we can all begin to envision what the next century of the Drexel co-op will bring.