Urging Middle Tennessee State University’s new students to “go forth, Class of 2027 … Take trips. Take chances. Take off,” author and television personality Bruce Feiler helped welcome them to campus during University Convocation.
A New York Times bestselling author, Feiler wrote “Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age,” the 2023 MTSU Summer Reading Program book for new MTSU students. He spoke Saturday, Aug. 26, during the 22nd annual Convocation, held in Murphy Center.
Convocation brings new freshmen and transfer students together with faculty and administrators wearing academic regalia in a formal program that also features the reading of the True Blue Pledge, led this year by Student Government Association President Michai Mosby, with remarks from MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Laurie Witherow, interim vice provost for Enrollment and Academic Services, and music from the Band of Blue.
“Beginnings are special … and this is the beginning of new, significant relationships, meeting people who will change your lives,” McPhee said.
A moment of silence was held for three MTSU students who died in 2022-23. Fall classes begin Monday, Aug. 28.
‘Go out and get it’
Feiler and wife Linda just dropped identical twin daughters Eden and Tybee off to college at Yale University, so he understood the emotions MTSU parents were feeling.
“Don’t wait for it to come to you. Go out and get it,” Feiler said in conclusion. “This was your dream to be here today. Now go out and make that dream come true.”
His three pieces of advice for their journey: Disagree with your friends. Change your mind. Write your own story.
Citing Genesis 12, where God calls Abraham to “go forth” with promises, Feiler said “while I don’t have the authority or the ability to make that promise to you, I can assure each of you has the ability to make it yourself. You can make yourself a blessing to this world. You can choose to bless us with your gifts. You can make your contributions to our planet, as God later says, as numerous as the stars.”
Feiler sat in the Student Union Commons for two hours in the heat Friday, Aug. 25, signing copies of his book for students. He was “inspired by their energy, their openness to the opportunity ahead of them and how they were already finding a sense of community. That’s what all parents want for their children. As difficult as it is to leave and say good-bye to the family you grew up in, what we want for them is to find a new family they can go through this and future journeys with, and I was very heartened by the experience.”
Freshman Anakarina Lorenzana-DeWitt, 18, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, an MTSU community and public health major, said Feiler’s remarks were “very thoughtful and impactful” and she spent several months reading his book.
“I appreciate all the insightful commentary he had for his audience,” the May Central Magnet School graduate added. “There was a great passion in his speech. He shared his great experiences, it was inspirational and had a lot to share with us.” She attended with her mother, Ana Karina DeWitt, and father, Mario Lorenzana. Her brother, Mario Lorenana DeWitt, graduated from MTSU in 2018 with a biochemistry degree.
‘Life Is in the Transitions’ essay winners
MTSU freshman Vincent Miller of Nashville, Tennessee, and Smyrna High School senior Benjamin Johnson of Smyrna, Tennessee, were recognized as winners and $500 scholarship recipients of the essay contest, held in conjunction with the reading of Feiler’s book.
Miller, 18, a Nashville School of Arts May graduate and MTSU journalism major, said the book was “very applicable to the change between high school and college. “After being homeschooled for years, I found high school a time to meet new people and learn a lot about myself and other people.” He attended Convocation with parents Julie and Jeff Miller and sister Ivy Miller.
Johnson said reading the book “inspired the way I look at life’s changes.” He said he lost his mother, Terrah Johnson, when he was 7. “That’s one of the reasons I want to study molecular biology in order help people.” A youth pastor and licensed minister, Johnson attended with his father and younger brother, Kevin and David Johnson, and plans to apply to MTSU.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)