Presbyterian College celebrated Tuesday’s start of the 2023-24 academic year at the 144th Opening Convocation in Belk Auditorium.
The senior Class of 2024 marked the beginning of their final year at PC by processing into the event wearing their graduation robes and witnessing their newest schoolmates matriculate and recite the college’s honor pledge.
The incoming Class of 2027 participated in the long-held and time-honored tradition of signing PC’s Roll of Honor and accepting membership into a community of honesty and integrity.
PC’s 20th president, Dr. Anita Gustafson, addressed the importance of the college’s honor code and its long history of building a community of trust. Gustafson told students she signed the Roll of Honor as a former faculty member and is signing it again as their new president.
“Today is an important day,” she said. “By signing the Honor Code, we will be joining a tradition that goes back to 1915. Generations of Presbyterian College students and faculty have stepped up and pledged to pursue honesty, integrity, and honor in everything we do. This is at the heart of what it means to be a Blue Hose – to be true blue.”
Gustafson said the Oxford English Dictionary defines honor as “high respect or esteem; elevation of character; nobleness of mind; a sense of justice; allegiance to what is right.”
“When you sign the Honor Code today, you agree that you will not cheat, plagiarize, lie, or steal, or tolerate those who do,” she said. “You agree to take your first step on a journey of education, you are committed ourselves to becoming part of an academic community that embraces honor and truth and an allegiance to doing what is right.”
Gustafson shared three ideas inspired by the college’s traditional values – community, curiosity, and honor.
As part of a residential academic community, she said, PC students may have different experiences and backgrounds but share several things in common – honesty, trust, and respect.
“So, a commitment to honesty is a commitment to the community and to others to say to your classmates, your teammates, your roommates, and your professor, ‘I trust you, and you can trust me,'” Gustafson said.
The president encouraged students to be curious.
“It’s really at the foundation of learning,” she said. “Bring that curiosity into the classroom, into your academic work, into your friendships. When people choose to cheat, they are really shortchanging curiosity. They are taking a shortcut to learning. They are letting other people do the heavy lifting for them, and then stealing their ideas.”
Gustafson said curiosity opens horizons for all.
“You are here to explore ideas, to ask questions, to meet new people, to be curious,” she said. “So, don’t shortchange yourselves.”
To illustrate how important honor is to the fabric of a PC education, Gustafson asked a handful of alumni who serve on the PC Board of Trustees how the Honor Code impacted them as students and professionals.
John ’73 and Alison ’73 Jeselnik wrote, “The Honor Code was an integral part of our experience at PC, impacting our behavior regarding studies and interaction with fellow students. Having honor reflects how we react to issues in professional life, and how we act on people who are important to us in our lives.”
Brad Bryant ’75 stated, “As a student, I began to understand the word ‘honor’ as a verb used in the sense of extending respect to others, and agreeing to honor a code not of my own making, but a guide at the college for generations. … PC helped me understand the power of relationships and respect for others who may have been different for me. That ability to build and nurture deep and abiding relationships has benefited me professionally and personally.”
Steve Smith, a PC Class of 1984 member, wrote, “The honor code clearly defines expectations and consequences of failing to meet those expectations. Honor has proven to impact my growth as a leader and owner of my own business. Seeing firsthand how choices I make choices others may have influenced our paths in life both personally and professionally.”
Whitney Harrison ’07 stated, “The Honor Code ensures that the PC spirit lived on in all of us. That we can trust each other in small ways, like leaving our possessions unattended in the library or while we went to GDH. And into bigger ways, like knowing we all valued our community and agreed to believe in something larger than ourselves. As a lawyer, I win and lose cases, but never at the cost of my honor. It’s my promise to the profession, the rule of law, and the courts that my arguments and words all involved can be trusted, and that I can integrity, honesty and truth above all else.”
Dr. Floyd Michael Nicholson ’14 wrote, “The Honor Code held me and my fellow students to a higher standard. It helped me to develop an appreciation for growing a trustworthy relationship among my professors and classmates. It was my first real sense of adulthood and responsibility as I encompass this next step of life as a young adult. Honor has also helped me create and sustain lasting bonds and friendships with individuals during my educational journey. Throughout my career and in my personal life. Being honorable will attract more people toward you. And it will also make it easier for you to notice honorable people in the crowd.”
Gustafson said many PC graduates echo those sentiments during their college experience.
“The Honor Code has made a difference in their lives,” she said. “It has made an impact beyond their years as students and I know that we’ll do the same, too. This code of honor has shaped their professional lives and set them set them apart from their colleagues. So, Blue Hose, my charge to you is to embrace community, to be curious, and, of course, to choose honor. In other words, to be true blue.”