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Convocation Ceremony at HWS kicks of 2019-20 academic year

The official kickoff of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ 2019 academic year commenced with the Convocation ceremony, which took place at 5 p.m. Monday, August 26 on the Stern Lawn.

In her first public address of the new school year, President Joyce P. Jacobsen welcomed first-year and returning students alike back to the Colleges.

President Jacobsen spoke about the mission of the Colleges and greater objective of a liberal arts education that each student partakes in when entering the learning community.

Shortly after, world-renowned paleontologist Matthew Lamanna, a Hobart College Class of 1997 graduate issued the Convocation address as the keynote speaker.

Lamanna recalled that he never grew-out of his fascination and love for dinosaurs, like most other children would as they got older.

He remembered his childhood, full of sand and prehistoric toys that he would play with until one day when his father accidently bought the wrong type of sand, which was actually a cement mixture.

In an attempt to recover the entrapped toys from within the solid sand mass, Lamanna shared, “Thanks dad for sending me on my first dinosaur dig.”

But the then Waterloo native would soon find his stride by attending the Colleges with his aspirations set on eventually become a dinosaur paleontologist.

Lamanna would join the Geoscience and Biology departments, earning the backing and respect of its faculty.

His participation in the study of geoscience and biology fueled his passion for paleontology, allowing him to meet a few of his idols while as an undergraduate, and eventually working with one of them in a professional capacity when he attended graduate school to pursue both his master and doctorate degrees at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the study of dinosaur paleontology.

Lamanna reminisced about his expedition to Egypt while as a Ph. D. student in 2000, where he and his peers unearthed a new dinosaur species which was named Paralititan stromeri and later known as the “tidal giant,” a sauropod, or long-necked plant-eating dinosaur.

In the first few weeks, his crew suffered an onslaught of sandstorms and food poisoning without much reward until they uncovered the new dinosaur. 

Weighing in at 40-tons and 90-feet in length, this new dinosaur was a monumental discovery in the paleontology profession, especially for Lamanna as a doctoral candidate.

Since then, Lamanna has led ventures to Antarctica, China, Argentina and Croatia in an effort to uncover fossils across the globe.

Lamanna expressed that he has never accomplished any task or accolade on his own, thanking all of whom helped him along the way to achieve his goals, especially his support system at the Colleges.

“It takes a village to dig up a dinosaur,” Lamanna said.

He especially shared his gratitude with the global community while acknowledging the conflictual past of colonization that influenced unethical practices pertaining to paleontological expeditions. 

“Exploration should not be at the expense of others,” he said. Rather, he further mentioned that it should lift others up.

Recognizing his global mission, he shared his utmost gratitude toward all of the Argentinians, Egyptians, Croatians and Chinese who aided him at each of his paleontological sites throughout the world.

Throughout his career, Lamanna has uncovered fossils on all seven continents, a rarity in his profession.

Currently, Lamanna is an acting associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.


– Reporting & Photos by Gabriel Pietrorazio

An undergraduate student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Pietrorazio has written for the Town Times of Watertown, Connecticut and Finger Lakes Times in Geneva, New York. He’s currently an intern reporter for FL1 News, and can be reached at gabriel@fingerlakes1.com.


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