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Inauguration of Jayson Boyers, EdD

Jayson Boyers, EdD, was inaugurated as Rosemont College’s 14th president on October 21, 2021. Watch a video of the ceremony and read Dr. Boyers’ inaugural address below.

Living Tradition, Guided by Purpose 

Members of the Board of Trustees; faculty, staff, students, alumni; former presidents Sister Ann Marie Durst, Dr. Dorothy McKenna Brown, and Ofelia Garcia; honored guests, colleagues, friends, those joining us by livestreaming, and my wonderful wife, Mandy, who is here in the front row and to be honest has been the biggest important influence in my life for 28 years. Thank you for being here today. I’d like to especially thank today the President of Creighton for joining us. My time there and what I brought away from my experience will stay with me forever. 

I owe a debt of gratitude to our donors, facilities and public safety, staff, and the committee of volunteers who planned this program together. I’d like to thank two individuals, Jennifer East, who is my executive assistant, and James Yarrish, who is the operations manager of the Provost Office. I promise you none of this would have come together without those two. And I want to thank the committee. 

Can we give them a round of applause please?  

I am honored to be here. This ceremony is a bit unconventional. Often new college presidents are inaugurated soon after they arrive or after a few months into the job. I’ve now been here for 18 months, so in many ways I do not consider myself new anymore, although I do still find it interesting that there are always three ways to get anywhere and my GPS is constantly arguing with itself. 

My arrival has converged at an exciting time as Rosemont marks its Centennial and begins a yearlong celebration of this milestone. This truly grounds me because one of the many things I love about this college is that we are rooted in our values, mission, and tradition like very few communities I have experienced.  

Rosemont is a special place and has been for a century. How humbling for me to know that I have the opportunity to contribute in some small way to the direction of the College into its next 100 years. 

I came into this presidency during a global pandemic and social upheaval across the world. Today’s college students have been shaped by coronavirus lockdowns, political tension, racial injustice that has unfolded around the world, and more. In the last year, we have been faced with unprecedented challenges.  

As many of you know, I announced our reopening plans for 2020 on my official second day here at Rosemont. I promise I took more than one day to come up with the plan. I was working for six weeks by Zoom with the team here. I was in the midst of moving halfway across the country during a pandemic and scenario planning between rest stops and states lines. I remember the relief as we got here. I will tell you the first time I saw the home my wife and I would be living in was when they were moving furniture into it. So, I was glad about two things. One, it turned out to be a very nice place to live and, two, that my wife is a very patient woman. 

It didn’t take long to see that we were a community dispersed and understandably so. While we have never been more connected through tools like Zoom, email, and texting, we were disconnected. It became critical to me to find the way forward for our community. I hold the core belief that learning happens best in relationships with others. I had to really think and reflect on how best to move our community forward despite the challenges of the pandemic.  

I found comfort and support in the teachings of Fr. Richard Rohr, a Fransiscan and contemplative teacher and Wayne Dyer, the renowned author and speaker in the fields of self-development and spiritual growth. Fr. Rohr often says, “How you do one thing is how you do everything so reflect carefully on your actions.” One of the key teachings of Wayne Dyer that is particularly meaningful to me is: “The law of flotation was not discovered by contemplating the sinking of things.” Wayne was quoting Thomas Troward, who lived in India and Great Britain from 1847 to 1916. 

“In the early days of shipbuilding, ships were made of wood, and the reasoning was that wood floats in water and iron sinks. Yet today, ships all over the world are built of iron. As people began studying the law of floatation, it was discovered that anything could float if it’s lighter than the mass of liquid it displaces.” Wayne’s point was impactful for me, we must pay attention to the things that help us rise, not just what might sink us. 

Take a moment and reflect on that with me – do we think about why something sinks, or do we think about what can help us float or rise? Because our perspective matters and how we do one thing or approach one thing is how we approach everything. Do we approach the future with trepidation or anticipation? That answer changes everything. 

This was an easy question for me to answer as it relates to Rosemont because we must keep our minds on rising. I feel strongly that we rise when we embrace and live our values. I am passionate that obtaining a college degree can change a life. It changed mine. And I firmly believe that small colleges can have the biggest impact on transforming lives. Nimble and personal, small colleges like ours can provide access to education in a manner that is highly unique and purposeful. This is what we are doing at Rosemont. This is what will ensure we rise above mere circumstance and flourish as a college and as a community.  

Our values and who we say we are will form our foundation to make decisions and guide us toward the future. All of our decisions must be guided by purpose. Building this essential foundation will ensure that we rise. I have learned this time and time again as I speak with students and parents, our legacies, faculty and staff, and our loyal alumni who share their stories about how Rosemont’s mission has had an impact on them.  

So, what does it look like for our values to be manifested? We want our students to develop minds that are both open and critical, to make reasoned moral decisions, and to develop a sense of responsibility to serve others in our global society. 

When I was pondering my inauguration speech, I thought who better to help us take the next steps and look toward the future than members of our own community who hold Rosemont near and dear to their hearts? So, I spoke with several of them and reflected on our conversations. 

I asked them, “Why has Rosemont made such a difference in their stories?” As we embrace our Centennial year, we have been given an amazing opportunity to both look back on Rosemont’s past, but also to look forward at what the next 100 years will bring.  

We are a distinct community that has something unique to contribute to the world. Just as Cornelia Connelly taught us to “meet the wants of the age,” we need to persevere and transform to continue meeting those needs. What will guide us on this mission? How do we live our mission in ways that meet the challenges of today? 

Through these conversations I uncovered seven themes that I see as our living tradition and how we will move forward:

  1. The POWER of the Individual for the Benefit of Greater Society 
  2. The POWER of Finding our Authentic Voice
  3. The POWER of Confidence in Ourselves, our Faith, and Others
  4. The POWER of Passion
  5. The POWER of Care & Action
  6. The POWER to Belong
  7. The POWER of Purpose 

Let me share my reflections on these enlightening conversations: 

First, I spoke with Sr. Carroll Juliano, leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus’ American province and a member of our Board of Trustees. Here is what she said to guide us as we go forward:  

The POWER of the Individual to Benefit the Greater Society 

Sr. Carroll spoke about Cornelia Connelly, the founder of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. Cornelia developed an educational system based on trust and reverence for the dignity of every human being.  

Cornelia believed that every student is unique and that every individual learns differently; that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to education. She believed in developing everyone's individual gifts in service to the greater good.  

She founded the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in 1846, and the order has faithfully lived these values ever since. Rosemont’s founding is based on these principles and began by offering women access to higher education. We have remained committed to meeting the wants of our students to benefit society. Here are a few examples: 

  • In 1963, we began welcoming non-Catholic students to our campus.  
  • In 2008, we started offering online degrees.
  • In 2009, we became a co-educational school. 
  • In 2015, we led a national dialogue on transparency in college pricing.  

We are small and nimble. We haven’t been afraid to change, and through these changes we have always stood by our values and our commitment to deliver a high-quality education and prepare our students to find their place in the world.  

And, we continue to live these values as we meet the wants of today.  

This year, we have launched ambitious academic programs and forged new partnerships. One of these, Rosemont Momentum, is an exciting new corporate and government partnership program to increase enrollment in our School of Graduate and Professional Studies accelerated online programs. In doing this, we became only the 26th college in the nation to be certified by the Federal government to join the Federal Academic Alliance and provide online degrees to the Federal Civilian Workforce of 2+ million employees and their families. 

Today, those wants also point to an increasing need to ensure that nontraditional students have access to a quality education. These are the students who come to college a bit later in life after gaining some work experience or attending community college first. Maybe these are students who did not think a four-year college would be the right fit for them, but we know they will find their unique fit at Rosemont.  

The world looks a lot different from 100 years ago, but some things have not changed. We have a responsibility to every student to prepare them to build a life that matters, that is thoughtful, that contributes to their chosen profession, and grounds them in the idea of social responsibility and good citizenship. I am proud that here at Rosemont, 175 years after the Society’s founding, we remain committed to our focus on the individual for the benefit of the greater good. 

We build on that innate desire for goodness by encouraging open minds and hearts, cultivating care for others and for the planet, and developing a compassionate moral compass. We bring the Holy Child philosophy to life by helping each student discover the highly individual gifts they have been given.  

Through education, meeting the wants of the age, and having a spirit of belonging, we can teach our students to step into the fullness of life. We believe students can become the best versions of themselves at Rosemont and truly make a difference in our world.  

The POWER of Finding our Authentic Voice 

Then, I spoke with Ann Marshall, an officer on our Board of Trustees and a member from the Class of 1966.  

Ann told me that Rosemont allowed her to find and share her voice. I was not surprised to hear this. Rosemont has a long history of giving students an opportunity to find their voices and use them to make a positive impact on the world.  

Ann’s first visit to the college gave her a deep sense of belonging. She left with a feeling that the administration and faculty were good caretakers interested in guiding the students. An English major, she was, in her words, encouraged to “Dabble” to find her passion and voice. She certainly did just that becoming the editor of Inscapes magazine, the creative writing and Art magazine, and it led her to a life well lived. I love and am grateful Ann has used her voice to impact her Alma Mater.  

She says it best, “Pay attention to Rosemont. The wisdom of the founder of the College, Cornelia Connelly, is embedded in its very core. Our new President Dr. Boyers is committed to our mission. Rosemont College is small enough to embrace each and every student and guide them forward both in undergraduate and graduate school. There are graduates from every decade who emerged from Rosemont smarter, more confident, and happier for their Rosemont experience. We are Rosemont’s emissaries!” 

When Rosemont was founded a hundred years ago, less than 8% of women had access to higher education. Today, Rosemont continues to support students from all backgrounds to find the POWER of their voices.  

Just last month Rosemont was named a top performer on social mobility by U.S. News & World Report. Rosemont was ranked #7 in this category, up from #15 last year. Rosemont is the only college in the Philadelphia region in the Top 10. What this means is that we are recognized as a college that excels in helping economically disadvantaged students obtain their degrees. U.S. News confirmed what we knew all along. Rosemont has a long history of providing access to education. We believe all people have a right to a quality education that will empower them to find their voice and understand how they can use it to have positive impact. We welcome students from all walks of life because we know they will find their unique fit here and excel within our community. 

In some cases, this means a student might be the first from their family to attend college. We have many first-generation students at Rosemont, and we’re so proud they have chosen our institution on their journey toward a degree.  

I can relate to these students because I was a first-generation student. I know firsthand the challenges they face to obtain their degrees. Not only was I a first-generation student, but I also fell into the non-traditional student category. My first attempt at college did not lead to my degree. Instead, I took some time to work, returned to college and finished my bachelor’s degree as an adult learner, like many of Rosemont’s students in our professional studies programs. Knowing I’ve walked in their shoes, I am sensitive to the fact that our students face many types of challenges on their paths to completing their degrees, and I am committed to helping them in any way I can.  

We also have an intentionally diverse community. We aim to provide students with an environment where they can safely be themselves and explore who they want to become. They will meet people who are different from them and be guided in how to challenge their beliefs, and those of others, in a respectful way. It is not about creating a homogonous community, it is about creating a community where difference is appreciated and celebrated and where everyone has a sense of belonging and value. 

The POWER of Confidence in Ourselves, our Faith, and Others 

I then spoke with Ronnie Ahern, honorary trustee on the board and former Chair of the Board from 1997 to 2007. Ronnie is also an alumna from the Class of 1968.  

She made me laugh at the start of our chat because she said, and I quote “I've had 50 years to think through this.” 

Ronnie said Rosemont gave her confidence in God and the confidence in others to develop relationships. This confidence led to her ability to cooperate with and trust others. Her reflections bring me back to my belief that learning/living happens best in relationships.   

Confidence, finding your voice, and uncovering your unique gifts all tie together according to Cornelia Connelly. To me, what I want for every student is for them to become the best versions of themselves. To find their voice and become their best self. To do this, we must build confidence in our students, and Rosemont is the perfect small college community to do this.  

As Ronnie put it, she (Ronnie) was a big fish in a small pond and then went to a large pond and had to adjust. Ultimately, Ronnie understood the pond is whatever you say you want to make it. Many here have heard us talk about the POWER of small. Our community of just under 500 campus-based undergraduate students is just the right size for us. Our small community allows for deep and meaningful connections with our faculty and with each other where everyone knows each other by name. There is no hiding in our classrooms. With an 11 to 1 faculty to student ratio, our students are accountable and contribute to their learning communities. All of this builds up to increasing confidence.  

Instilling this confidence in our students will set them on a path toward success as they enter society and leave their mark on the world. This confidence is two-fold: confidence in themselves that they can succeed and confidence in building meaningful relationships with others.  

Being a small and nimble institution, we were able to successfully and safely reopen to in-person learning for the last two years. I think it’s safe to say we have all seen our trust in our ability to collaborate and learn from each other to navigate adversity. Confidence in ourselves and trust in our community allowed us to gather in person and build relationships, and for that I am forever grateful. We navigated a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and did it together. We determined our pond and our way forward in relationship with confidence in ourselves and each other. 

Rosemont is a small, diverse, and unique community where our students can unlock their potential, see their confidence grow, and become the best versions of themselves. That is why Rosemont has mattered for 100 years and will matter for the next 100 years. 

So, we’ve heard the wisdom from the Society and two alums. Now I turn my attention to how much I continue to learn from our students.  

The Power of Passion 

Let me introduce you to our student government President, Madden Levin. Madden said, “Rosemont allowed me to reach the next stage in my life that I had always unconsciously hoped for. Being part of this community fostered confidence in myself and those around me, as well as a newfound appreciation for my future career. Rosemont showed me it was okay to fight for what you believe in alongside countless dedicated individuals by being patient and passionate. And not only was this okay, but it was welcomed.” 

Madden will continue on to her master’s degree at Rosemont. She says she feels prepared for the professional world and feels grounded by the experiences she had at Rosemont. I was touched when she added that she also feels extremely emotional to move past her undergraduate years because of the comfort she experienced here on campus.   

Before I even set foot on campus, I knew Rosemont was a place where people support each other. A place where learning communities can grow and thrive, and each member of our community is appreciated for their unique gifts. Rosemont is a place where students are encouraged to pursue their passions, dive deeply into the topics that interest them, and open their minds to new ways of thinking.  

To hear Madden’s words, reinforce that we are on the right path. My hope is all our students feel comfort and support by the culture we have created here to pursue the passions set on their hearts that will make all the difference in their life and the communities and professions they pursue.  

The Power of Care and Action 

One of the first students I had the opportunity to spend time with was Abigail Brooks. She is a born leader with a presence and heart that allows her to express truth that is both affirming and challenging in the same moment.  

When we sat down recently, she told me Rosemont has a unique way of creating community that allows for finding your true self. The professors care deeply and are committed to knowing the true essence in the students they teach. “Brooks,” as she is known across campus, called it “Care in Action” that is the foundation of the belonging we create as a community. 

The Power to Belong 

I also was able to spend some time with that beautiful voice you heard during our National Anthem today, Dezalyn Triplin. 

Dezalyn is a Psychology major and RA here at Rosemont. She talked about Rosemont’s community as being a safe haven when she first arrived but quickly transforming into a family that cherishes each other and rallies around each other. She believes what makes Rosemont rare is how consistently people show up to support each other and live their values for each other. Dezalyn said there is a feeling that if you need someone, they will be there for you.  

This power to belong to a greater community that stands with each other is the way forward in a world that has become so disconnected. Our diversity will only make the bonds stronger, and the life we live richer. Rosemont College is about connections, for the last 100 years and for the next 100 years. 

The Power of Purpose 

I couldn’t end without a voice from the dedicated faculty who are at the center of the experience here at Rosemont College. I had a chance to visit with faculty member Brittney Nix-Crawford.  

While a fairly new faculty member, Brittney has been so active in the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom as is the case with our faculty members. Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the class.  

Brittney said for her, “Rosemont helps people find purpose.” This was true for her professional journey, and she sees it with our students every day. She sees the “Rosemont Way” as giving everyone a chance to fulfill their God-given purpose and to develop their unique gifts so they can become the best version of themselves and set the path for their unique stories to be lived out.  

The thing about purpose is, much like learning, it is best discovered in relationship with a supportive community. Done in isolation, it can be self-focused and ego driven. Done in community, it helps us understand our perspective must be greater than our singular story. Our faculty have dedicated themselves to this conversation with our students. I am very grateful for this dedicated group of faculty who guide our students toward meaningful lives of purpose. 

The quotes and themes about our values that I shared with you today are the roadmap that will guide us on our journey together. I firmly believe small colleges have a critical role to play in higher education and that Rosemont is well positioned to lead the way. Small colleges can be very successful – they just need to be innovative and grounded in living our mission in all we do because as we do one thing is how we do everything.  

We have the ability to break down walls between business, education, and the community to craft innovative partnerships and create new programs that can breathe new life into our communities. This is Rosemont – for a hundred years, always innovating, always moving forward focused on the individual to “Meet the Wants of the Age.” 

Together, these relationships we form are creating new opportunities that are fueling growth at Rosemont. In fact, this year alone we have just welcomed one of our largest incoming classes in a decade. 

And our students – they must be listened to and seen. Rosemont students are resilient; they possess grit, along with a desire to improve, evolve, and not be defined by their past challenges. They motivate and empower me to make tomorrow better than today.  

Remember Wayne Dyers and his question about the law of floatation? Rosemont will always continue to rise by staying innovative and by not being afraid to change or to do what is hard while all the time focused on the floating of things rather than the sinking of things. We will face our future with anticipation not trepidation. 

I often say that I would not have moved halfway across the country during a pandemic if I didn’t believe in Rosemont. And I mean it. There is truly something special about this place and the people who call Rosemont home are what make it special. It is an honor for me to serve this community as we continue to thrive into our next 100 years. Thank you for being a part of the greater Rosemont community. God Bless.