The lights went down, the crowd hushed and the tiger emerged. While this is Bobcat country, the 2013 Montana State University Freshman Convocation began with a cat of a more exotic variety.
The 300 pound female tiger, presented by professional illusionist and 1990 MSU graduate Jay Owenhouse, was a tribute to the Canadian author of “Life of Pi”, Yann Martel, who spoke at the event. Martel is the recipient of the Man-Booker Prize, over seven million copies of his book have been sold worldwide and his novel has been made into an academy award-winning film. In addition to Martel, over 6,000 students, MSU faculty and community members packed the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse last Thursday night to welcome the Class of 2017 to Bozeman. According to President Dr. Waded Cruzado, this year’s freshmen are expected to be the largest ever incoming class to MSU, including students from 47 states and 19 countries.
ASMSU President Lindsay Murdock encouraged students to make the most of their time at MSU, in the classroom, in the environment and with the extraordinary people who populate our school. Similarly, Cruzado called students to rise to the challenge of a gaining a college education. “Convocation literally means you are called, called to begin your academic journey… Starting tonight, you will be who you choose to be,” [pullquote align=”right”]”you will be who you choose”[/pullquote] to be she said. In his address to students, Martel also focused on the theme of choice. “Your future would happen no matter what you did, but you made a choice. Choice goes to the heart of ‘Life of Pi’,” explained Martel.
The audience is left with a choice, and Martel encouraged students to consciously choose the better story in life, to “make a leap of faith, to stop being reasonable and to be better for it.” That faith need not be a religious one, as in Pi’s case, but something outside of themselves, a motivator for which to live.
Martel’s other message to students was to read. He noted, “Every time you read a book,you lead another life…Reading will expand your life, make you a wiser, more open, more fragile human being.”
On that note, with the Bobcat Fight Song ringing in their years, the freshman class left the fieldhouse to begin their new adventure in Bozeman. The evening was both an exotic and a traditional Montana State one; including two cats — a tiger and Champ (the MSU mascot) — words of encouragement from an acclaimed author and music from both an academy-award winning film and The Spirit of the West marching band.