On a beautiful late summer day, Merrimack hosted the 2021 Fall Academic Convocation welcoming new and familiar faces back to Merrimack’s campus. After more than a year of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, the formal convocation – a word derived from the Latin word for “calling together” – was a welcome opportunity for the Merrimack community to fully come together again.
“It is impossible to look out on this crowd of new and familiar faces and not feel, in some ways, the loss of events such as this during the past year,” said Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D., president of Merrimack College. “To see you all in front of me now, in person and together, gathered as one community, called together in convocation, brings me joy and hope for our shared future.”
For students, faculty, alumni and staff alike the convocation ceremony was one of the most significant markers of reunion following the past 18 months of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. After more than a year of social distancing and hybrid learning models, the Fall 2021 Academic Convocation not only marked the beginning of a new academic year, but also showcased an exciting time for Merrimack as the entire college community came together again in person.
Following President Hopey’s remarks, John “Sean” Condon, provost and vice president of academic affairs, took to the podium to address the Class of 2022, formally welcome the incoming Class of 2025 to Merrimack College and to introduce Dr. Elie Ata.
“Elie is a credit to his family, his community and Merrimack College,” Condon said. “We are proud to have him as a member of the Merrimack College community and are proud to watch you grow and serve the people of the Merrimack Valley as a practicing physician. It is an honor to welcome him back as our convocation speaker.”
Dr. Elie Ata ’12 graduated from Merrimack College with a degree in biology and minors in chemistry, Spanish and Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations. Ata was a member of the inaugural Merrimack Honors class in 2008 and went on to pursue a medical degree from Central Michigan University College of Medicine. In 2021, Ata completed his residency in his home community at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (GLFHC). He is now a Board-certified full spectrum family physician focusing on increasing equity and accessibility to quality health care for all.
In his address, Dr. Ata shared stories of success and failure, encouraging incoming first-year students and rising seniors alike to embrace change, learn from their mistakes and know that they will always have the agency to define their own successes. In addition to personal stories and anecdotes, Ata closed his remarks with a call to action: for students to walk their own paths, make their own rules and, most importantly, embrace difference in their lives and in their own communities.
“You all are the catalysts of your generation,” Ata said. “By the time you start your careers, we will have had a revolution in almost every major sector, even if it is only the digitization of tasks. The old rules are not only crumbling but they are broken and there is no point in fixing them. Put yourselves in positions to be in the room where it happens, get a seat at the table, and when you do, I implore you to keep an open mind, explore thoughts and ideas that make you uncomfortable and question your ideals and beliefs.”