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Bentley University President E. LaBrent Chrite speaks at Convocation 2021

'We Expect Great Things from You'

E. LaBrent Chrite

President Chrite welcomes new students at 2021 convocation

Good afternoon!  It is my great privilege to welcome the class of 2025 to the Bentley University community and to the 2021 convocation. I also want to welcome and acknowledge your parents and family members for their sacrifice and support, because we appreciate that none of you got here on your own. The Latin roots of the word "convocation" mean "to call us together." It is difficult for me to imagine a time in our nation's recent history in which we are more urgently called to come together as committed, engaged and compassionate members of a shared human community.

You all have the distinction of matriculating from high school to college and into the next phase of your life's journey during an unprecedented black-swan event, arguably the most cataclysmic crisis of our lifetimes. Nineteen months into a global pandemic with the accompanying social, political and economic upheaval has resulted in a period of profound uncertainty. Your presence here today, however, signals an enviable opportunity for renewal, reflection and for rigorous preparation in anticipation of the myriad opportunities -- and challenges -- that await you in life.

Bentley University President Brent Chrite walks down the aisle at convocation 2021
President Chrite approaches the stage.

I know that COVID-19 tested you. But it also revealed much in you. It revealed your capacity to successfully pivot and adapt to new distributed learning platforms and

to unprecedented and restrictive norms of social interaction. It revealed your tenacity and strength in pursuit of your goals that, among other things, landed you here as a member of the Bentley University class of 2025. And your first year at Bentley, because of COVID, will be slightly altered and we will need you to do your part and to be responsible members of this community. But you're up to this challenge as well. You are not only well-positioned to survive during these disrupted times, but you're also equally capable of harnessing the resulting uncertainty and thriving in it -- and to leveraging your agility and stamina as a distinct competitive advantage. And as such, we expect great things from you.

This convocation holds special meaning for me because, like you, I'm embarking on my first year at Bentley. I'm excited at the opportunity to share this experience with each of you. So, let's commit to supporting one another during our inaugural year at Bentley University.

I'd like to share some of the reasons that I was so attracted to this extraordinary institution. My commitment to education is manifest and deeply held. I came of age in Detroit, along with my three siblings, in the 1970s. While I wouldn't trade my upbringing for anything, it was not an easy place for me to succeed in or to emerge from. My education launched me on a journey that has exceeded my wildest expectations. Bentley University, with its world-class faculty and exceptional staff, is powerfully committed to ensuring that each of you possess the skills, fluencies, integrity and experiences necessary to become value creators in a 21st century economy. But that's not all. Our aim is nothing less than to position you to fulfill your highest and best aspirations. It's a great privilege to steward such an institution.

I was also drawn to Bentley because it's an institution that operates at the intersection of intellectual rigor and market relevance. We are uniquely focused on business and the liberal arts  – and the education at Bentley develops and strengthens both the quantitative and the adaptive capacities that the marketplace demands and that society needs. I was drawn to Bentley because I believe in the power of the private sector  – the power of capitalism. I've spent much of my last three decades in some of the most opaque and distorted economic markets on the planet seeking to engage communities and enterprises in the dynamism and creativity of market-based capitalism, which has been a primary catalyst for millions of individuals migrating out of profound and structural poverty.  

Though capitalism has been an undeniable factor in the creation of wealth and opportunities across the globe, its calculus and efficacy seem more complicated and uncertain in today's pandemic-laden environment. The disparities across our society are self-evident. Your education here will extend beyond the neoclassical economic paradigm, defined by a somewhat mechanistic and slightly more narrow view of capitalism's functions, toward one that recognizes – and seeks to harness  –  its openness, its non-linearity and its complexity. It is in this context that we recognize – and many of your experiences at Bentley will affirm – that the power of the economic marketplace, the power of capitalism, lies not in its allocative efficiency, but in its effectiveness in promoting creativity, and in ultimately impacting the human condition.

A life without failure is a life not fully lived. We want and expect you to fail and to pick yourself up, try, do and fail again. This is how we grow, and failure is a part of life. Get used to it.  
Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite
President, Bentley University


The liberal arts at Bentley will result in the cultivation of rational thought to include the preservation of the past, the pursuit of knowledge that contextualizes the present and that which illuminates the future. Tomorrow's economy – likely to exist largely at the intersection of physical and digital technologies -- requires a blended skill set. Bentley is unparalleled in delivering this. Here, you will develop your technical skills and fluencies while simultaneously strengthening your capacity to think critically, to discern, to effectively communicate, to engage and to lead – and you will be among the most sought-after professionals in the marketplace.  

Finally, I was attracted to Bentley because of its motto: Be a Force. As my colleagues have heard me communicate, we have no interest in developing the mind at the expense of the heart.

Now don't get me wrong. The priority of business, of course, is profitability and success. Without that, nothing else matters – and you will be exceptionally and rigorously well prepared to contribute to the success and competitiveness of any enterprise. At its best, capitalism is about creating solutions to human problems and bringing those solutions to scale. The development of highly effective vaccines in the fight against COVID-19 – in record time no less -- is a great example of this. The world's most pressing economic and non-economic problems are ultimately market-based. You will be needed to bring clarity, commitment, vision and energy to the myriad issues this nation and this world are facing.  

So that is some of what you can expect from Bentley. Here are a couple of things not to expect. Do not expect to be shielded from ideas or from points of view with which you disagree. You will be armed with the knowledge and ability to refute these ideas, but you cannot hide from them here. Do not expect to be shielded from communities with which you may be uncomfortable. At Bentley, we welcome, celebrate and affirm a broad and inclusive community. And let me remind you that it is the private sector in this country and around the world that continues to lead with a clear and persistent commitment to inclusivity and diversity. Finally, don't expect not to fail. A life without failure is a life not fully lived. We want and expect you to fail and to pick yourself up, try, do, and fail again. This is how we grow, and failure is a part of life. Get used to it.  

As you begin your journey here at Bentley University, as you define and pursue your life's passion and purpose, I encourage you to appreciate the transformational possibilities that result from sustained exposure to differing points of view.  

As William Allen, the former chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery some years ago said, "One of the hallmarks of a truly dominant intellectual paradigm is the difficulty people have in even imagining an alternative point of view." I hope that as you transition into this amazing community that you will at least on occasion, imagine such an alternative worldview and more importantly, your role in creating it, and that you accept the premise that doing well and doing good are in fact, quite intuitively, aligned.

Welcome to Bentley University. We are so happy to have you and we will be a richer community because of you. I look forward to getting to know you over these coming months and years. Stay safe have a great rest of your day and thank you! 

Meet President Chrite

Bentley University convocation in the Bentley Arena 2021
New students and their families in the Bentley Arena for Convocation 2021.