KERNS: ‘Time is short, but it’s not gone yet’



Bryan Kerns

By my count, there are 31 days until commencement. Candidates’ Day is Saturday – an event that seems to mark the winding down of the year here at Villanova as we usher in a new class of students and celebrate the achievements and bright futures for another.

Let’s cast that aside for a moment and think back to New Student Orientation.

Seniors, put yourselves in the Grotto on Saturday, August 20, 2005, sometime in the afternoon, surrounded by Orientation staff decked out in red T-shirts. The recorded high for that day was 87.8 degrees – mild for Philadelphia in August. Throughout most of the day, the temperature hovered around 80.

In the world that day, Northwest Airlines mechanics went on strike and the next day, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at his first World Youth Day and announced that World Youth Day 2008 would be in Sydney, Australia.

According to the New York Times, the preceding day a jury held that pharmaceutical giant Merck was liable in the death of a man on Vioxx to the tune of $253.5 million. The Phillies beat the Pirates 6-1 that night on the strength of a complete game six-hitter from Brett Myers.

In the Grotto that day you heard a speech from Dr. John Johannes, the vice president for Academic Affairs. One line in his remarks seems to resonate year in and year out.

He tells students: “Don’t let classes interfere with your education.” Now, for some, this would be a clarion call to leave the classroom and never come back – exactly the opposite of what it actually means.

For the more discerning among us, it’s a mandate to apply the knowledge we have gained in the classroom to our lives outside of it. It’s also recognition that the collegiate experience is holistic, that it’s not just the transcript your potential employers and graduate programs will see that measures what you have accomplished, but it’s necessarily everything else in addition to that.

That mandate carries with it a distinctly Augustinian character. Augustine himself, the great scholar, spends little time in his “Confessions” reflecting upon the direct impact his academic work had on him and yet, his studies are inculcated into almost every other area of his life.

That’s exactly the point, and in a way, informs the very purpose of the University – to prepare students for the day they leave and send them off.

It’s fitting that Candidates’ Day begins the drawdown on the academic year – that we welcome one class into the Villanova community as we prepare for the departure of another. It says something about the fleeting nature of what we do here.

It surely seems banal to discuss the idea that college goes by quickly. All students seem to share in that experience and, rarely, if ever, have I heard someone say that this or that year is endless or complain about how slowly the semester is going.

As we seek to fulfill the directive from our chief academic officer, not to let classes interfere with our education but to let the classes enrich our learning outside the academic buildings, to experience all that there is to experience in this unique environment, we help the university do its job – preparing students to leave.

Seniors have assured me that they don’t want their time at Villanova to end, but they recognize they can’t stay forever. They know that day in the Grotto almost four years ago was a harbinger of the idea that they would eventually have to leave.

There are 31 days until commencement. The journey isn’t over yet – learn a lot, enjoy the remainder and make sure that classes don’t interfere with your education.


Bryan Kerns is a sophomore honors and humanities major from Drexel Hill, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].