The University Record, September 3, 1996

Class of 2000 welcomed to U, urged to use time to learn

Students and their parents gathered in Hill Auditorium for the traditional New Student Convocation last week with a not-so-traditional message. Undergraduate Admissions Director Theodore Spencer noted that of the nearly 5,200 first-year students, m ore than 820 had 4.0 or higher grade point averages in high school, 265 had started their own businesses and 100 had achieved perfect scores on the math portion of their Scholastic Achievement Tests.

Photo by Bob Kalmbach


By Janet Nellis Mendler
News and Information Services


A fast-paced and fact-packed convocation welcomed new students to the University and left parent attendees pleased with its emphasis on blending academics and extra-curricular activities. The 4,000-seat Hill Auditorium was nearly filled last Wednesday night for a program that is not mandatory.

Tim Geddes came "because this is a big place, and any tips and guidance are welcome. It's just a good thing to do." Angela Delk had no doubts about attending. "I just felt like I should be here."

Gasps were audible when Undergraduate Admissions Director Theodore L. Spencer described the academic and extra-curricularaccomplishments of the class of 2000. More than 820 of the approximately 5,200 first-year students have 4.0 or higher grade point averages, 650 rank in the top 1 percent of their graduating class. Some 39 students earned perfect 800 verbal scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, while more than 100 posted perfect math scores.

Among those who took the American College Test, more than 380 received perfect science and reading scores, 36 earned perfect English scores, and 25 hit the top in math.

The millennium class accomplished much outside the classroom as well. Some 930 were elected to high school offices, about 850 worked on student publications, 725 were involved in theater, 1,000 performed in music groups, some 644 volunteered in hospitals or clinics, another 1,060 volunteered in other community programs while 2,080 held regular part-time jobs. And 265 started their own businesses.

"Perhaps one of the most incredible achievements of this class," Spencer said, "is that some 3,055 received high enough scores on their Advanced Placement test to enter the University with college credit."

Interim President Homer A. Neal told the students that he shares their feeling of newness, confessing that he still occasionally pushes the elevator button that took him to his former office. But while the students are purchasing items to enhance their residence hall rooms, Neal said his office furniture is rented.

Neal urged students to "use your time here not just to obtain greater knowledge, but also to begin in earnest the journey---a life-long journey---toward wisdom and understanding. From your experiences here, may you learn more about the significance and meaning of your life, and of the lives of the persons around you."

As members of the University community, Neal told the students that they have certain rights, and responsibilities.

"You have the right to call upon other members of the community for assistance and advice in your pursuit of knowledge and wisdom---inside and outside of the classroom. Seek out your professors and your peers; get to know them . . . As a community dedicated to learning, we all have the obligation to respond as best we can to questions honestly asked."

He reminded students of their responsibility to contribute "something of value to our community---to help us all improve our ability to pursue knowledge and wisdom. You can make a difference."

Representing the faculty at the convocation was Anthony W. England, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and a former astronaut. He described several opportunities undergraduates have to work with him and his research group, some as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, others through work-study, and some simply because they asked.

Photo by Bob Kalmbach

Michigan Student Assembly President Fiona Rose, the only speaker to wear a lapel microphone that enabled her to roam the stage, reminded students to break free from old bonds, to accept personal challenges, to experiment and to risk failure. This is "a big institution full of choices, where each of us feels anonymous from time to time, but where I found a best friend in my freshman-year roommate and where every morning for a year I met with a Latin professor who tutored me and believed in me."

Students are in charge of their own growth, she said, and need to interact with professors in laboratories, classrooms and studios. Successful students recognize "the give-and-take relationship of education, one comprising the exchange of knowledge.

"If you remember just one thing I say tonight, remember this: Your undergraduate years will clip by quickly. Seize them, enjoy the rhythms of the present. As you do, learn to love learning. And mind that you do more than pre-professional training. While law, medicine and engineering are the occupations necessary to sustain our society . . . our studies of history, art and poetry are equally crucial to sustaining the soul."

Maureen Hartford, vice president for student affairs, closed the convocation with the admonition to "Jump in." She reached back 100 years to a poem for the class of 1900:

"The treasured wisdom of ages
Tells ever the same refrain
The measure of might in the fight for
Is never brawn but brain."

Janet and Edward Kenny, whose son is a first year student, thought that SACUA president and opening speaker Thomas M. Dunn set the tone for the rest of the evening. "He engaged the students, connected the academic and extra-curricular sides of the University and truly made everyone feel welcome and a part of the University. The program was simply outstanding," Janet Kenny said.

Equally enthusiastic were Monica and David Willard, 1970 U-M graduates, who also have a son in the class of 2000. Monica Willard remembered a student welcome program, "but nothing like this!" They were impressed by Rose's talk, and particularly enthusiastic about the number of deans and faculty who were introduced. Like the Kennys, the Willards thought that the convocation prescribed an appropriate academic tone, balanced against what the University would offer outside class. "Everything has improved in 30 years," David Willard said.

Music figured prominently in the convocation; University carilloneur Margo Halsted performed, as did University organist Marilyn Mason. Graduate student Kimberly Haynes sang the national anthem, and the Friars clearly were a crowd pleaser.

Following the convocation, parents were invited to attend "Jazz Under the Stars" at the Alumni Association, while students followed the Marching Band to Escapade! `96, an evening of food and entertainment at the Union.