Following a four-day orientation packed with activities, discussions, tours, symposiums, events and the traditional First-Year Student/Alumni Rally, the Class of 2014 was officially welcomed by Lehigh President Alice P. Gast at a convocation held Sunday, Aug. 29, in the Zoellner Arts Center.
Gast described the incoming class as “an exceptional group of scholars, one of the most diverse and talented we have ever welcomed.” But, she noted, the true measure of their promise and potential will be “the great things you do after you leave South Mountain.
“I see the outcomes reflected in lives that are rich in so many ways that statistics cannot begin to measure,” she said.
As she spends time with Lehigh alumni, Gast said she often hears them reflect on their Lehigh experience and how they wove “these experiences into inspiring stories of successes and accomplishments that transcend their personal and professional lives.”
The educational experience, she concluded, is not about merely imparting information, but discerning the quality of information, integrating concepts learned in one place and applying them in another.
“It is,” she said, “about developing the life skills needed to transform intellectual success into personal success. This is the outcome we expect at Lehigh. I have every confidence that you will do great things and I wish you all the best.”
Gast was introduced at the convocation by John Smeaton, vice provost of Student Affairs, who welcomed the new students into the Lehigh family.
“As some of you already know, and eventually all will come to appreciate, Lehigh is more than just a four-year experience—you have begun a life-long relationship,” he said. “You and the university are now in the process of getting acquainted. Over the years, the bonds will grow and strengthen. Regardless of where your life journey takes you, you will always be a part of the Lehigh family.”
Jack Lule, the Joseph B. McFadden Distinguished Professor of Journalism and director of the Globalization and Social Change Initiative at Lehigh, stressed the importance of developing strong relationships with professors, and the pivotal role they can play in a student’s Lehigh experience.
“Semester after semester, you will get to know more professors and they will get to know you,” he said. “They can talk with you more deeply about issues and events. They can help you think about how to tie your interests to a career. They can help you with internships and summer jobs.”
Lule also encouraged the new students to “get to know another country” through extraordinary study abroad programs, courses and opportunities offered at Lehigh.
The convocation capped a four-day series of events that began with Move-In on Thursday, Aug. 26. (See video Welcoming the Class of 2014.) The new student orientation program—called evoLUtion—is designed and implemented by the Office of the First-Year Experience to help students adjust to college life. A wide range of events included academic discussions and symposiums, a Community Expo, theme dinners, open houses at the advocacy offices of the university, a "Lehigh Under the Stars" movie night, a "Thinkfast" trivia contest, and a series of panels aimed at helping students successfully navigate their new environment.
It also featured one of Lehigh’s most enduring and endearing traditions: The 66th annual First-Year Student/Alumni Rally. Held Saturday evening on the lawn in front of the University Center under cool, clear skies, Lehigh’s Class of 2014 met their new, extended family.
Following a rousing warm-up by the Marching 97, the Dance Team, Lehigh’s cheerleaders and LU’s Finest Step Team, alumni carrying flags representing the classes of 1940 to 2014 processed from the Alumni Building through the crowd of students to the stage set up for the event.
In honor of Lehigh’s long-standing tradition of having the class from 50 years ago “adopt” the incoming class, the procession was led by John DeNoia ’64, president of the Class of 1964, and Lane Jorgensen ’64, the class vice president. DeNoia carried the Class of 1964 flag, while Jorgensen carried the Class of 2014 flag.
“The Rally represents all that’s great about Lehigh: tradition, loyal alumni, a dedicated and top-rated faculty and staff, and a very motivated student body,” Robert W. Wolfenden, assistant vice president for alumni relations, told the first-year students sitting on the lawn. “All four are key ingredients that support and perpetuate our Lehigh family.”
The first rally was held in 1945, when the Class of 1899 adopted the Class of 1949. And the students cheered enthusiastically when Wolfenden concluded his remarks by telling them: “Fifty years from today, you’ll be right back here continuing the tradition as you officially adopt the Class of 2064.”
DeNoia, addressing the students, assured them that “the Class of 1964 stands ready to assist you in anything that you need. The Class of 1914 stood tall for us. We owe you nothing less.”
DeNoia then handed first-year student Timothy Gentzlinger the official Class of 2014 flag. Demonstrating that he understands what school spirit is all about, Gentzlinger shouted, “Go Lehigh!” and then ran into the crowd, waving the flag as the students cheered.
Meghan Bowen ’11, president of the Association of Student Alumni (ASA), encouraged the students to “hit the ground running.
“You are here at Lehigh because you are intelligent, talented and personable young adults,” Bowen said. “I urge you to find your niche, to make good choices and to stop and smell the roses throughout your college career.”