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Beacon President Dr. George Hagerty addresses the audience at the 2022 convocation.

By Richard Burnett

Only weeks into her first college experience, Kathryn Kendall suffered humiliation at the hands of a professor who mocked her in front of the class. Her handwriting, he said, was a mess, much like that of his five-year-old grandson. Her classmates laughed.

That experience left her scarred, Kendall recalled, as she spoke at Beacon College’s annual convocation on Aug. 18. She later transferred to Beacon in 2020, where her scars would heal, thanks in large part to Richard Davidson and his staff at Beacon’s writing center.

“The resources for success are here, you just have to use them,” said the summa cum laude graduate who will study for her master’s at Lynn University this fall. “If I could tell that 20-year-old version of me where I’d be in 10 years, I wouldn’t have believed it. I learned that embracing what makes you different — your learning differences — helped me not just to fly, but to soar.”

Kendall joined a lineup of administrators, faculty members and students who struck an optimistic note as Beacon formally launched its latest academic year. A record freshman class of 150 students boosted Beacon to another record enrollment of 505 students for the fall semester.

Speakers also included President Dr. George Hagerty, Provost Dr. Shelly Chandler, Dr. Richard Perrone, chair of the department of human services and psychology, Dr. Oksana Hagerty, dean of student success, Dana Manzo, dean of campus wellness and student development, Alex Morris-Wood, associate vice president of transition and student experience, and Malynne Gwei Strong-Allen, president of the Student Government Association.

Beacon’s growth in numbers has been accompanied by expanded academic offerings, improved campus facilities and Beacon’s rise in the top tier of U.S. News’ Best Regional Colleges in the South. All of that occurred as the college responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, guiding students through best practices to keep them healthy and safe.

Looking ahead to the coming year, Chandler told the convocation audience of mostly first-year students that they would not be alone as they experienced the uncertainties that everyone feels in their first year. They have a ready resource in Beacon’s comprehensive support network, from teachers and tutors to learning specialists and counselors, she noted.

“However anxious you may be about this new experience, please take a moment of justifiable pride that you are entering a competitive college community destined to change your life,” Chandler said. “No academic community is more motivated, nor more accomplished in eliciting the best of undergraduate students than Beacon College. Our mission demands that great teaching and instructional support are at the core of all we do.”

At Beacon, that support network extends from the ground level to the top, President Hagerty told the group. “Looking across this stage, we have 172 years of education experience here — collectively, not individually, of course,” he said, smiling. “We have the recipe for your success.” 

Briefly put, the recipe ingredients include being committed to attending class, developing friendships, being part of campus life and being involved in the outside community, Hagerty said. And the college is committed to supporting students at every step along the way.

“The secret behind Beacon College is that, in a high-tech world, we are still high touch,” Hagerty said. “We want to get to know you. We want to get to know your dreams, your ambitions, your hopes and your concerns. We are there for you.”

He recalled his own freshman convocation when the college president told each student to look at fellow students around them and realize many of them wouldn’t be back next year. It was a “horrible thing to say, because it only created tension and put more pressure on students who were already frightened,” he said.

Instead, Hagerty had the first-year Beacon students to stand, look at the students beside them and tell them, “I’ve got your back.”

“That is the Beacon experience,” he said. “You are going to rely on that mantra, and your faculty, staff and others here are relying on you to follow through on it. This is your community. Our best hopes are with you. Embrace this experience as a gift that it is. There is challenge, joy, discovery and achievement. And it is all here for you.”