1999 Convocation Address

Scott S. Cowen
Delivered at Freshman Orientation
Saturday, August 28, 1999

Life, Learning and Lagniappe

It is a great pleasure for me to officially welcome the class of 2003 or 2004 to the Tulane community.

I look across your faces today, I am both proud and envious. Proud because you are among the best and brightest students anywhere. Your potential is unlimited, and you hold the keys to opening and realizing all of your dreams. As you sit here today, whatever you can imagine for yourselves, you can make possible. It is up to you to seize the moment and fully take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities Tulane offers.

I am also envious because you are about to embark on one of the most exciting and memorable times of your life–a time of unprecedented intellectual and personal growth.

But while you explore your independence, you are also joining the community of distinguished and accomplished people who have preceded you since the founding of this institution in 1834 as the Medical College of Louisiana, and the subsequent creation of Tulane University in 1884 and H. Sophie Newcomb College in 1886. We have more than 91,000 living alums located around the world, many with distinguished careers in virtually every walk of life.

As you are about to embark on this wonderful journey, there are 10 pieces of advice I want to share with you. I fondly refer to them as President Cowen’s advice to the new collegian.

President Cowen’s Advice to the New Collegian

  1. Eat well. This is an easy thing to do in New Orleans. I came here 15 months ago and weighed 150 pounds. Now I could be the starting right tackle for the New Orleans Saints.
  2. Don’t do anything you think would upset your mother or father, depending on which one is most anxious about what you are likely to do. You might sacrifice some fun, but you will be safer and will give your parents peace of mind.
  3. Graduate in four years. If it takes longer it will prematurely age your parents. Empirical studies by first-rate scholars have conclusively proven this point.
  4. Don’t overdose on New Orleans. New Orleans is like a terrific meal; if you eat too much too quickly, you are going to get sick. Instead, enjoy all of its dimensions during your stay with us. It isn’t going anywhere.
  5. Enjoy every minute of every day because these are the best of times. Freedom and independence are everywhere, yet you still have your parents as a safety net. Don’t abuse the privilege.
  6. Obey the law. I am the law on this campus, and we are tough on offenders. Don’t do drugs, don’t drink if you are under age and don’t abuse the privileges of alcohol when you become of age. I don’t say this to be difficult. I say it because all of us at Tulane genuinely care about your safety and well-being.
  7. Don’t keep small, gnawing pets such as hamsters in your room. Hamsters get loose and eat money–that is why college is so expensive. Actually, this bit of advice is not original to me. The author Roy Blount Jr. wrote it. Which reminds me to tell you to do your own work and properly credit others when you rely on them. If you don’t, you are going to get in trouble.
  8. Partake of everything on the Tulane smorgasbord. Learning takes place both in the classroom and outside of it. Make sure you avail yourself of everything this great university has to offer.
  9. Aspire for greatness–you all have it within you. Remember the words of Benjamin Franklin: "Blessed is he that expects nothing, for he will never be disappointed." Disappointments, mistakes and mishaps are mere steps on a journey to greatness.
  10. Say hi to the President when you see him. He loves the attention and cares deeply for students. You will make his day, and this is always a good thing.

I end with the words of Mr. Spock: "Live well and prosper." You are beginning the journey of a lifetime. Also, write and call home often–it will pay dividends with your parents, especially when you request more money.

Welcome to Tulane.

Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638