Higher education will change your life, University President ad interim Kenneth Freeman told the Class of 2027 at Sunday’s annual Matriculation ceremony, the official welcome of the entering class. Freeman—whose career has spanned an impressive range, from CEO of a major medical company to longtime dean of BU’s Questrom School of Business and vice president for Human Resources—recounted his journey as a first-gen college student. In his remarks, he credited his undergraduate college experience with being an essential launching pad for the rest of his life.
“I am grateful for the faculty and staff members who took a sincere interest in me,” Freeman told the incoming students and their families gathered at Agganis Arena. “They helped me understand what it would take and what it would mean to do well in my classes and take full advantage of the opportunities that lay ahead.”
The Class of 2027’s 3,147 new Terriers filled the arena’s floor, sporting scarlet gear. Their friends and family filed into the stands above. Those who couldn’t attend the ceremony in person were able to watch via livestream.
In addition to Freeman, other speakers were Matriculation emcee Jason Campbell-Foster, newly appointed dean of students, Kenneth Lutchen, University provost and chief academic officer ad interim, and Dhruv Kapadia (CAS’24), Student Government president.
Matriculation is one of the oldest collegiate traditions, with roots in medieval Europe; students participated in this ceremony to recognize the special status they held in the society of that time. BU faculty and administration wear academic dress and banners representing the University’s undergraduate schools and colleges are displayed. The Matriculation ceremony marks the beginning of the academic year and is the first of only two occasions when an entering class will gather together (the other is Commencement).
Kapadia began his remarks by quoting Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian freedom fighter, Bengali poet, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913: “The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life,” Tagore said. Shade is important for a few reasons, Kapadia said: in addition to shielding from harmful UV rays and preventing overheating, in the metaphorical sense, “shade represents the protective support, the compassion, and the empathy we extend to one another.”
He pointed out that this presents BU’s student body with a problem that needs solving: how to increase the shade for all. While some will say that it is important to plant trees for the betterment of society, others are more selfish, Kapadia said, and “see the lack of shade as an opportunity to capitalize, to profit, and to plunder. And unfortunately, in the free market we live in, there isn’t much money to be made in planting trees.”
He urged his fellow students attending a well-known and respected university with many resources to heed this advice: “Don’t bask in the shade afforded to you, without growing it for the generations to come… Instead, remember the support given to you by so many others.”
Faculty speaker Steve Ramirez (CAS’10), a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences and recipient of the 2021 Metcalf Cup & Prize, BU’s highest teaching honor, also spoke. He opened by sharing anecdotes from his experience as a BU undergrad, including what it was like to live in Claflin Hall as a freshman, an embarrassing (and funny) incident where he and his friend dressed up as Mario and Donkey Kong for Halloween, when no one else on Comm Ave did the same, and how an old love interest helped him discover his eventual career in neuroscience.
Later in the speech, he called on these humorous anecdotes to illustrate his point: “In the next four years, what you say here matters, what you do here matters, and you’ll gain experience on new feelings, and sometimes they’ll feel very uniquely yours.” So have the courage to reach out, make a connection, and be the first one to dance at a party, he said.
“I promise that someone will come to you who just so happens to have a similar challenge and is looking for some advice on how to ‘start the dance,’ and you’ll become the most important person in the world in that moment for that person, because you are exactly who they needed you to be,” Ramirez said. “That makes everything you experience, in your own way, worth it.”
When Freeman became Questrom School of Business dean in 2010, he said, he received hearty congratulations from his 97-year-old father. His dad then shared that he had been admitted to BU in the early 1930s, during the Great Depression, but couldn’t attend because he needed to help support his family financially. He and his brother, Freeman said, were fortunate to go on to earn their college degrees. “Higher education changed our lives—and will very likely change yours,” he said.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Freeman said the University is enjoying a “sustained period of success and exceptional momentum,” which has made the school even more selective (less than 11 percent of applicants to the Class of 2027 were accepted, he noted). He listed some of the University’s numerous offerings, like its strong undergraduate research program, 82 Study Abroad programs, and 500 student-run clubs. “I sincerely hope you bring a sense of curiosity and excitement that compels you to take full advantage of all the possibilities and opportunities that Boston University, a great urban research university, can offer.”
For 17 years, Lutchen attended the yearly Matriculation ceremony as dean of BU’s College of Engineering. On July 1 of this year, he became the University’s interim provost and chief academic officer. Among his new duties: presenting the Class of 2027 to be officially matriculated.
“You are about to enter into a special bond with this University,” Lutchen told the entering students. “Within the University’s classrooms and laboratories, your abilities will be shaped and nurtured; frequently, difficult demands will be made of you. We are confident, however, that you will not only meet these challenges, but excel.”
In addition to the Matriculation ceremony, the day also included a special breakfast in campus dining halls, an interdenominational Matriculation service at Marsh Chapel, and the annual Matriculation Walk: students from East and West Campus making their way along Commonwealth Avenue to Agganis Arena.
After Stella Eby FitzGerald (CFA’24) led assembled students and families at Agganis in the singing of Clarissima, the University song, students were invited to attend the inaugural Comm Ave Fest. The raucous celebration spanned seven locations across campus, among them a Terrier Tailgate prior to the men’s soccer team facing off against UMass Lowell, a bash on the BU Beach, and live music on the College of Communication lawn.