August 21, 2010, Greencastle, Ind. — “It is a special day for all of us,” DePauw University President Brian W. Casey said this afternoon as he welcomed the Class of 2014 and their families to campus, “and this is a special class. It is time for a new season.”
Dr. Casey made his remarks at the Opening Convocation, which took place in Kresge Auditorium of the Green Center for the Performing Arts. The 1,400 seat venue was filled for the 3 p.m. event, and an overflow crowd watched the proceedings via a closed circuit TV feed in nearby Moore Theater.
Led by bagpipers, the president and the new students processed through the campus, past historic East College and the academic quadrangle and into the Green Center, where they were greeted by cheering members of the DePauw faculty.
“There are few moments in life when you are as gloriously old as when you are finishing your final year in high school, or secondary school,” Casey said as he looked out over the 642 new students who filled the front rows. “Life moves in comfortable rhythms, days roll by like familiar music. Looking back, it all seemed easy. You could walk through the hallways of your old school blindfolded. But now it’s all new again. And you’re new again. And somehow — as your parents are moving boxes around and rushing off to Wal-Mart — you’re supposed to somehow figure it all out.”
The incoming class — the most diverse in DePauw’s history — includes 617 first-year students, 13 transfer students and 12 foreign exchange students. The new students come from 36 states and 22 countries; 34% of the new class (213 students) come from multicultural backgrounds, the highest total in DePauw’s history.
Additionally, 21% of the incoming undergraduates are first generation college students, in other words, no one in their immediate family has graduated from college before. A total of 23% of the enrolling students have an alumni tie to DePauw.
After spending the bulk of the day moving into their residence halls and getting acclimated to their new surroundings, the new students and their families gathered in the Green Center to hear from the president and other University leaders.
“This is an old school, and this is a good place,” the president exclaimed. “Groups of DePauw faculty have welcomed new students to this campus for 174 years. These grounds echo with the voices of thousands of students and hundreds of DePauw faculty who have gone before. And it has thrived through those years because it is a committed place, a place of learning and transformation, a place of joy and challenge.”
Entering college, Dr. Casey told the incoming class, is about “wonder and possibility” and urged the students to spend the next four years exploring.
“Inside the classrooms of this University, you are actually supposed to get something wrong; you’re actually supposed to make mistakes,” the president said. “You’re supposed to disagree with someone and you’re supposed to proclaim something one day and realize you need to proclaim something entirely different the next. One day you’re going to disagree with a classmate, and you’re going to argue with them. Then to your dismay, you’re going to find out you were wrong, and you’re going to have to make amends. I’m here to tell you that there is not one member of this faculty who will ever think less of you for making those mistakes.”
“The path to wisdom, to be educated, is always to be vulnerable to that dizzying feeling you must be feeling right now,” The University’s nineteenth president stated. “Education keeps you on your toes. It always throws you. So on your way to wisdom, a path lined with inevitable. wonderful mistakes, keep your sense of wonder with you. Even keep that feeling of uncertainty that you have today.” Dr. Casey added, “If you do, there will come that day when you comprehend some very difficult concept for the first time, or finish an extremely challenging book, or master a piece of music. And it will be a sign that you have obtained some form of mastery, and some type of wisdom.”
A college campus “can take the world you know and rearrange it in spectacular, beautiful new ways,” the president declared, “There will come a time when you are walking on this campus, probably by yourself, maybe in the evening, and you will know exactly what that means. And when that moment hits you on this campus — and I know it will, and I promise it will — stop for a moment. Breathe it in. Take it in. You will never be as wise as you are at that moment, and you will never be as young. Life, a good life, is made up of these moments. They are the architecture of happiness.”
Dr. Casey added, “So what you are feeling today is your first best moment at DePauw. And it is our feeling, too. We will have always had this day together.”
DePauw’s student body president, senior Christine E. Walker, offered the new students some veteran (“Go to Dairy Castle”) and humorous (“Call your mother at least once a week”) insights, urging the Class of 2014 to “leave DePauw a better institution than when you walked through those doors today. Leave it better not because you were an indifferent observer as things happened around you but as a direct result of you being here.” She added, “You are surrounded by amazing people and resources to help you be successful in this task. Now it is up to you.”
The crowd also heard from Pedar Foss, dean of academic life, associate professor of classical studies and Edwin L. Minar Professor of Classical Studies; Cindy Babington, vice president for student life and dean of students; David Harvey, vice president for academic affairs and Percy L. Julian Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Janet L. Johns ’85, president of the DePauw Alumni Association.
After the program, the new students met with their faculty advisers and began the orientation process before saying farewell to their families. Classes begin on Wednesday.