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Gast challenges Class of 2012 to expand their “intellectual boundaries”

A taekwondo black belt, Jason Logan describes his ascent through the martial arts rainbow as “only the beginning” of his training. It signalizes his mastery over kicks and stances, but now he must combine these techniques.

“It’s like marching band," says Logan, an engineering student and an alto saxophone player who completed a week of band camp before arriving at Lehigh last Thursday. "Once you learn the steps, then you can learn the drills.”

"They would say college is the beginning to of learning. Once you learn arithmetic, you can do calculus,” adds the native of Pleasant Valley, N.Y.

Logan was one of several black belts who officially kicked off their Lehigh careers at the convocation ceremony held Sunday evening. The Class of 2012—one of Lehigh’s most selective classes—filled Baker Hall and overflowed into an adjoining room in Zoellner Art Center. Besides martial arts experts, several EMTs, Eagle Scouts, airplane pilots and even a Harvard book award recipient were among the 1,171 new Lehigh students attending the ceremony.

Although the annual ritual retained its formality, each speech and song was punctuated by a hearty round of applause and cheers. The Lehigh University Choir garnered the most enthusiastic response with its foot-tapping, body-swaying rendition of an African spiritual. After only three days in the choir, 18 first-year students each sang a brief solo.

Other highlights from the evening included a recitation of the induction pledge, the signing of the Lehigh University Undergraduate Student Senate Statement on Academic Integrity, and greetings from John Callahan, the mayor of the City of Bethlehem.

In her welcome address, President Alice P. Gast encouraged the Class of 2012 to emulate the former leaders of Bethlehem Steel, whose towering steel stacks are visible from many of the dorm windows.

“They challenged conventional wisdom and took unprecedented risk to build the infrastructure for their company. The dividends for their courage were taller buildings, such as Rockefeller Plaza, the Empire State Building and the U.S. Supreme Court,” she said.

Gast told students to expand their “intellectual boundaries” as the leaders of Bethlehem Steel did by interacting with people from different backgrounds, by building on the potential they see around them and by seeking new ways to address old problems, such as environmental degradation.

“Receiving your diplomas in May 2012 will signal to the world that you have achieved academic excellence, but the real measure of your success here at Lehigh will be the degree to which you have stretched your intellectual boundaries,” Gast said.

Danielle Impellizeri, a international relations major, also eagerly anticipates that day in May.

“I got goose bumps when the president was talking about graduating in 2012,” says Impellizeri, who left Long Valley, N.J a few days early to practice with the cheerleading team.

“Adoption” of the Class of 2012

As a cheerleader, Impellizeri must have felt right at home at Saturday night’s First-Year Student/Alumni Rally, an event that is part pep rally, part parade, part history lesson as the alumni from 50 years ago “adopt” the newest batch of Lehigh students.

At the first-year rally, Logan realized that he was joining a family, not just attending school.

“It’s truly a lifelong thing,” said Logan. “Fifty years from now, I will be back and do the same thing for the freshmen. I look forward to it.”

Lehigh’s sense of family was hard for Logan and the other members of the Class of 2012 to miss Saturday night. For instance, ninety-year-old Jake Hankins ’39 was grinning from ear to ear as he led a parade of flag-bearing representatives from every Lehigh class from his class through the Class of 2011 on to the stage on the UC Lawn for the 64th annual First-Year Student/Alumni Rally.

Hankins had two good reasons to smile.

First, his son Charles ’79 was at his side in the parade. And second, sitting in the audience in her brown and white Hawks’ Nest t-shirt was Hankins’ granddaughter Carly, a member of the Class of 2012—the class that was being “adopted” into the Lehigh family that night.

Each fall, the graduating class from 50 years ago “adopts” the incoming class. And this year, Bob Downing ’62 did the honors, giving some sage advice to the first-year students.

Downing implored them “to work hard, because Lehigh is tough, to get in shape because Lehigh’s hills and all-nighters would test them and to enjoy everything that Lehigh has to offer.” Then, Downing officially “adopted” the Class of 2012 by giving their class flag—a flag that mirrors the green and yellow pattern of his class flag—to Matthew Howland ’12, a Lehigh legacy.

Howland immediately grabbed the flag and went into the crowd of his fellow first-years to wave it—drawing roars from his new classmates. It was one of many rousing cheers on Saturday night from the Class of 2012, who were amped up prior to the parade of flags and the short formal program by co-masters of ceremonies Scott Wojciechowski, the president of the Class of ’09, and Brian Cohen, the president of the Class of ’11—with some help from Marching 97s, the Lehigh cheerleaders and the Mountain Hawks mascot, the Lehigh dance team and LU’s Finest Step Dance Team.

“One of the best events of the year”

Following the parade of flags, Gast was introduced by Bob Wolfenden, the assistant vice president for alumni relations. In her brief remarks, Gast welcomed the students to Lehigh and to the rally, which she called “one of the best events of the year.”

Sticking with the night’s theme of linking Lehigh classes from 50 years apart—in this case, the Class of 2012 with the Class of 1962—Wolfenden pointed out the significance of the number 50.

“In 50 seconds, I’ll be done speaking. In 50 minutes, the rally will be over and you’ll be in Packard Hall (for the “Think Fast” orientation event). In 50 hours, you’ll have completed your first classes at Lehigh. In 50 days, you’ll be taking 4 o’clock exams as you near the midway point of your freshman year. In 50 weeks, you’ll have completed your first year at Lehigh. In 50 months, sadly you’ll have graduated from Lehigh and will be working in your first job or will be in grad school.

“And in 50 years, many of you will be back here as members of the Class of 2012 adopting the Class of 2062.”

--Becky Straw and Bill Doherty


Posted on Monday, August 25, 2008

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