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Convocation 2016_Collage In TextA First-Year Convocation was held on August 19, and all first-year students were in attendance. The Deans from the Schools at Saint Francis alongside the Provost Wayne Powel, President Father Malachi Van Tassell, T.O.R., current student Gabrielle Beck, and alumna Elisha Fleig processed into the filled auditorium to officially welcome students academically to the University and offer words of wisdom.

After a welcome and opening prayer, Fr. Malachi expressed his confidence in the first-year students’ ability to succeed, and current student Gabrielle Beck (double major in psychology and Spanish) offered her advice to the class of 2020. Elisha Fleig then took her turn at the podium, offering her words of wisdom to the students in correlation to the book first-year students read this summer.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Each year, the General Education Committee selects a book for all first-year students to read and discuss. This summer, first-year students read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Skloot first heard of HeLa cells in a high school biology class, at the same time her own father was taking part in an experimental drug study for an undiagnosed condition. Years later when Skloot began her writing career, she recalled Henrietta Lacks’ story (where the HeLa cells originated from) and the connection to her own father. She chose to write about the Henrietta Lacks case, touching upon underlying issues of medical ethics and what the “right” choice is—“right” being defined differently for many people.  

Addressing the Franciscan Goals of Higher Education—a cornerstone of education at Saint Francis—particularly “Reverence for All Life and for the Goodness of all Humanity” and “Respect for the Uniqueness of Individual Persons,” The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks provided a solid foundation for first-year students to begin building upon.

A Choice

Alumna Elisha Fleig shared her connection to the book as she discussed the choices she has made and where they have taken her.

Similar to Skloot’s hearing of the life-changing HeLa cells when she was younger, Fleig first heard of Saint Francis University when she was only in middle school, in a moment that touched her life. Years later, when she had to make a choice what to do with her future, she chose to attend Saint Francis. Stemming from the choices she made, she now works as a Physician Assistant at the Cleveland Clinic. (Read more about Elisha Fleig here.)

As the first-year students’ book portrays, everyone’s “choices” are different. Fleig stressed that the students should be proud of the choices they have made and continue to flourish in their choices. Students will have to make choices throughout their lives, and in making these choices, the foundation they build at Saint Francis with the Franciscan Goals of Higher Education will prepare them. Sharing her favorite quote by Abraham Lincoln, Fleig shared her strongest advice to the students, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”