Recognizing that dropping off their teenage sons and daughters at college was an emotional day for the parents of the Class of 2011, Lehigh President Alice P. Gast began her Aug. 23 address at Packer Chapel by reassuring them that their children were in excellent hands.
“One of Lehigh’s most distinctive attributes is its clear and unwavering focus on students,” said Gast. “At Lehigh, our outstanding faculty, dedicated administrators and loyal alumni are passionately committed to undergraduate excellence and to making each student’s years at Lehigh as productive, rich, and valuable as possible. We are all here for your sons and daughters, and for you.”
Gast told the parents of this year’s class, a group that includes students from 41 states and 19 countries, that their sons and daughters would learn to form their own views, to make their own decisions and to lead by developing new ideas.
“There will be late nights at the library, long hours of reading, writing, solving problems… And students should seek to push themselves to do things that they might be less sure of,” said Gast. “Try out for a play, pick up an instrument and practice, play intramural sports, tutor children in our neighborhoods…. Whatever it is they do, they will greatly broaden their horizons, learn important life lessons and enjoy themselves.”
Gast reminded parents that their children have the good fortune of entering Lehigh during an academic year in which the Dalai Lama will give a series of teachings on campus. The Dalai Lama, of course, will visit Lehigh next July.
“Throughout the academic year, there will be many opportunities to learn about Tibet and Tibetans, their history, religion, culture, food, music and philosophy,” Gast said. As part of Lehigh’s Summer Reading Program, incoming first-year students were asked to read the Dalai Lama’s autobiography Freedom to Exile
While the first-year students will be exposed to and will absorb lots of information over the next four years, Gast believes that their time at Lehigh will be one of self-discovery too—with the help of the faculty, staff, and fellow students at Lehigh.
“We will encourage them to find their passion, to enjoy their freedoms responsibly, to build new relationships, and to make these the greatest of times,” Gast said.