Caleb Andrew Norton
Student speaker: College of Arts and Sciences (Sciences)
The last four years here at Loyola have not seemed much like years at all. Months have felt like weeks, and days have seemed like hours. I have loved the constant stream of activity during this time in college. Whether it was being a part of the men’s soccer team, working on a research project in the organic chemistry department, volunteering at a local free clinic, or spending time with my friends, there have been very few boring moments during my time at Loyola. In spite of this busy pace, as I have approached graduation, I have taken time to slow down my life for a few moments, and reflect on what this experience has meant to me.
I know my roommate Eric Nock is going to make fun of me for starting with this quote. He thinks I go out of my way to make “Hemingway references.” But in For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway states, “Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.” This quote has a lot of personal meaning for me when I reflect on my time at Loyola. It seems that every day has provided a new experience that has made a slight tweak to the pre-formed image of the future that I started with as a freshman. These steady alterations in my “master plan” started from day one at Loyola, and continue today.
During my first week of classes, I began to see that things at Loyola were going to be a little different than when I was in high school. Right out of the gates, I was enrolled in Social and Political Philosophy with Maria Kulp. It was a step out of my comfort zone. I was always a math and science guy in high school, and could breeze through a chemistry conversion in a second, but at Loyola, I found myself reading passages by Rousseau 45 times with little comprehension. Although challenging, I was beginning to learn that the well-rounded foundation provided by the Jesuit education helps one learn to adapt how they view problems. We’ve all heard the saying: “If all you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” Well, the sciences had been my “hammer,” but I soon realized at Loyola that the humanities would provide me the “screwdrivers” and other tools I would need to construct a complete educational foundation.
The transformative education at Loyola seems to have adopted a very literal interpretation since our arrival in 2009. It is not just the students undergoing the transformation, but the architecture of campus as well. A lot of us in this room believe we are the last members of a “golden” era. We were the last group to slug up 10 levels of escalators to attend class in Damen Hall. We were the last group to climb into the dusty rafters of Alumni Gym to watch Loyola spike another national volleyball powerhouse. And we were the last group to spend our “study-break” on Wednesday nights at a certain Rogers Park bar and grill (long live Hamiltons!).
All that said, it has been exciting to be a part of the transformation taking place. With new athletic facilities, dormitories, student centers, classroom buildings, and theaters, Loyola continues to adapt to meet the challenges of providing a comprehensive Jesuit education to students. While we may be part of the end of one era, we are lucky to have witnessed the dawn of a new one. There is hardly a place on campus that I walked by during freshman year that has not changed drastically.
But my favorite place on campus is one that has not changed at all, and I hope it never will. It is a place that you probably have walked by hundreds of times. It is a bench overlooking the lake in front of Sullivan Center, tucked between bushes and a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Many times I stopped there to catch my breath, and look at the water, after finishing a run down the lakeshore path. This quiet, enduring place, in the midst of constant flux and transformation, reminds me of the solid core of the Loyola education. While campus buildings may change drastically, and students may transform during their four years, this spot reminds me that the foundations of the university remain intact, and that an education that teaches one how to be a man or woman of others will always be an unchanging pillar of this university.
With this education, we can go forward, confident in all that we have learned, and take comfort in knowing that regardless of the changes we will experience in our lives, Loyola has given us a solid foundation to become people that will make a difference in the lives of others in our community, in the nation, and in the world. Thank you.