Unity is the important goal, even in a place as diverse as Lincoln University, Interim President Mike Middleton told about 100 students, faculty and staff attending the school's Opening Convocation.
He pointed to English poet John Donne's reminder "no man (or woman) is an island entirely of itself," and to Martin Luther King's comment "all life is inter-related."
Middleton noted Lincoln's own founding in 1866 required a lot of cooperation.
"Had the soldiers of the 62nd and 65th Infantries not come together over their desire to share the most basic of education with other freed men and women," he said, "we likely wouldn't be here.
"Had those same soldiers not pooled together their money, to collect approximately $6,400 had Lt. Richard Baxter Foster not been willing to speak on their behalf, perhaps that day in 1866 wouldn't have been so historic for us."
Middleton called cooperation just as important to the continuation of this great legacy, noting the university is made up of many facets.
Students, faculty and staff come to Lincoln from "all races, creeds, ethnicities, backgrounds, traditions and experiences," he said, "yet we all exist at this time, and in this one place, because of one Lincoln."
Middleton reminded the convocation, even with those differences, "We are much more alike than we are different — and the ways in which we are different make us stronger as a group."
Lincoln's Student Government Association set this year's goal as "Be One Lincoln — #Bridging the Gap," SGA President Curtis Burton III announced.
"We are challenging all Lincoln University students, staff and faculty to link-in by connecting with one another in an effort to move our university forward and preserving our rich and noble legacy."
Middleton echoed that theme.
"Be one Lincoln, or be one link in the chain," he said. "It is what we hope, what we need and what this great institution deserves — because a lack of unity within will lead us to failure in accomplishing our most noble mission."
That mission faces some rocky stretches, including a time of less money and more work to do, Middleton said. He noted as the interim president he probably won't be around to see most of the students graduate, nor stay long enough to see veteran teachers and staff members retire.
He said now is both an interesting and exciting time to be at Lincoln.
"We are positioned to move forward to something greater than any one can imagine — but we can only do that as one," Middleton said. "Let's come together and be one Lincoln that thrives and survives."