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Sharing the heavy lifting

Lehigh President Alice Gast and a student volunteer do their part to help a first-year student during Move-In Day.

As his stepdaughter Adrienne Smith ’10 moved into Lehigh's McClintic-Marshall House on Aug. 24, Jack Gentul was impressed not only by the amount of help they received, but also by the identities of the helpers.

That’s because the first three people to lift boxes from the back of his SUV and into Smith’s new dorm room were none other than Lehigh President Alice P. Gast, Gast’s 10-year-old son, David, and Lehigh Provost Mohamed El-Aasser.

“In my 30-plus years in higher education, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Gentul, who is the dean of students at New Jersey Institute of Technology. “To have the president of the university, one of her children, and the provost of the university greeting my family as we pull up and then carrying my daughter’s belongings into her new home sends a clear message that Lehigh truly cares about my daughter’s well-being.”

And it led the clearly appreciative Gentul to quip, “Who else you have lined up to help, a senator or the governor of Pennsylvania? Or will President Bush show up to park our car?”

Smith was one of 1,215 students from around the country and the far corners of the globe who arrived on campus to settle in for their first year at Lehigh. Making the move-in a whole lot smoother were 202 faculty and staff volunteers as well as the 536 Greek students (fraternity and sorority members)—all of whom did more than their fair share of heavy lifting.

“The volunteers were amazing,” said Smith. “All I had to carry up to my room was my purse and my ID. They were so helpful.”

“A positive first impression”

Rita and Dave Yusko, whose son Adam is part of Lehigh’s new freshman class, were also impressed by the energy and efficiency of Lehigh’s army of volunteers.

“It took us the better part of an afternoon to get Adam packed and 13 hours for us to drive from our home in St. Charles, Illinois,” said Rita Yusko. “And within 10 minutes, all of Adam’s stuff was moved into his room. It truly made us feel welcome and made us feel even better about Adam’s decision to come to Lehigh.”

Barry Mauck, who along with his wife, Robin, was moving his daughter Julia, a freshman English major with a business minor, into McClintic-Marshall, agreed that Lehigh’s students and staff left a positive first impression.

“Julia chose Lehigh because the school stressed the excitement of academic pursuit and because the school’s smaller size allows for students to really get to know one another and the professors,” said Barry Mauck of Columbia, Md. “The work of the all the volunteers reinforces Lehigh’s feeling of family and togetherness and made Julia feel welcome here from Day One.”

Ryan Dean, a junior finance and marketing student from Bethlehem, believes that the volunteers get as much out of the experience as they people they help.

“This is my second year of doing this and it’s a lot of fun for all the volunteers,” said Dean. “It’s our way of saying welcome to Lehigh and showing them that they’re entering a truly special place.”

Once the heavy lifting was behind them, parents and students were able to enjoy an array of activities throughout the day—including walking tours of campus, orientation sessions for parents, and a picnic-style lunch served on the sun-drenched front lawn of University Center. A steady stream of parents also made their way to the aptly-named “I Forgot Shop” set up in Lamberton Hall. The shop enabled parents to pick up incidentals that they may have forgotten to pack—ranging from hangers to rugs to cleaning products—without leaving campus.

A few feet away from the “I Forgot Shop”, students and their parents were able to avail themselves of the organizing services, products and expertise of Diane Albright, a professional organizer who has been featured on the HGTV show “Mission: Organization.”

An official presidential welcome

Late in the afternoon, Gast, Lehigh’s president, gave an official welcome to the parents of the Class of 2010 in Packer Chapel and assured them that their daughters and sons had made wise decisions in choosing Lehigh.

“I know that selecting a college is a family decision. In Lehigh, you have chosen a university that is small enough for students to really get to know the faculty, staff and each other,” said Gast. “The infectious passion of our alumni who come back year after year, is a clear testament to the great times spent at Lehigh and the lifelong friendships forged in the classrooms, residence halls, playing fields, studios and fraternities and sororities. Here, students really get to know their professors. I assure you that they will be carefully mentored, not just taught.”

Gast told parents to encourage their sons and daughters, the newest members of the Lehigh family, to find their passion over the next four years and to pursue it.

“We all thrive if we are doing something we love,” Gast said. “We will excel if we wake up every day and have a passion for our work. Their four years here will set a strong foundation for this.

“It is important that they choose the major that is right for them. They should follow their heart and their interests and their talents and seek the courses, teachers and scholarly activities that excite them. When they do, they will find success in life.”

--Bill Doherty

Photo by Theo Anderson

Posted on Friday, August 25, 2006

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