On the inclement evening of September 4, the Class of 2016 celebrated their Convocation ceremony in the Palestra.
But though the rain forced a change from the event’s usual location on College Green, it failed to dampen the new students’ high spirits. Amid deafening cheers from the Class of 2016 and rowdy songs played by the Penn band, President Amy Gutmann officially welcomed the new freshman class and transfer students to the Penn community.
“In light of the Olympics,” Gutmann said, “I have three words for you that will be very easy to remember, three easy words that define your journey to a gold medal Penn experience: ready, set, engage.”
In what has become a convocation staple, Gutmann assured the incoming freshman that any feelings of inadequacy were misplaced. “Our admissions dean, Dean Furda, and his team did not make any mistakes,” she said. “You are the most diverse, most academically accomplished class in the history of Penn. And as you know, you have a whole year to enjoy that.”
Gutmann then counseled students to embrace “intense intellectual engagement” as “your greatest challenge, greatest opportunity, and ultimately your greatest joy.
“Engage your professors, engage new thoughts and challenging ideas, engage your fellow classmates,” she said, adding that opportunities also abound for civic engagement and community service beyond the confines of the campus.
Echoing Gutmann’s sentiments, Provost Vincent Price advised, “Focus on this night—not four years from now, but the here and now,”urging students to seek out and cherish the many rewards to be found throughout their Penn journey.
Penn Alumni President Lee Spelman Doty W’76 offered the Class of 2016 additional advice. She assured students that they would form intense bonds of friendship at Penn. After asking students to look to the person seated on their right and left, Doty remarked, “They may be someone that you will know for the rest of your life.”
While the exercise produced nervous giggles from students, President Gutmann maintained that this uncertainty is the best part of a Penn experience.
“It is not merely a good thing not being able to predict where you may end up, what you’ll be doing after Penn, or who you’ll end up being—or who you’ll end up knowing and loving and living with,” Gutmann said. “It is perhaps the greatest thing about what a Penn education affords you: endless opportunity.”
—Elizabeth Slivjak C’13