New Initiatives Greet Incoming Class at Davidson
August 22, 2001
Davidson College welcomed 474 new students as its Class of 2005 on Thursday, August 16, to a campus that features new endeavors in the areas of curriculum, facilities, and community life.
Formal Orientation events began Thursday, but many students took advantage of early move-in on Wednesday evening to get settled in their new residence hall quarters. It was a hot, hot evening, and college dining services employees (l-r) Donna Jones and Lin Chatham kept coolers of ice water topped off to help movers keep cool. Transfer student Grant Cooper '04 of Marblehead, Mass., and others got a hand with their luggage from about 100 upperclass "Orientation Team" volunteers such as K.K. Baird '04. "OT" volunteer Kevin Epps '03 (right) gave a hand to Kate Johnson '05 and her dad, Mike, from Winston-Salem. Hall counselors in Cannon Residence Hall unfurled a special welcome for new residents there.
There was evidence early on that the college's extensive efforts at matching roommates worked out very well for some new students. For instance, (l-r) Megan Perez of Towson, Md., and Katherine Younger of Hillsborough, N.C. found out quickly how much they have in common. Katherine's mother graduated from Meagan's high school, and Katherine has been visiting relatives who live just a few minutes from Megan's house in Towson for many years. The coincidences were practically spooky for new roommates (l-r) Isabelle Abbott '05 of Greenwood, Va., and Emily Bullock '05 of Columbus, Ohio. Both have three older sisters the same ages, both drink tea but not coffee, and both have a yellow Laborador retriever named "Nell!" What are the chances of that?!
Preparation for the school year began even earlier than Wednesday for some school groups, such as athletic teams, minority students, and Orientation Team members. Kathy Bray Merrell '85, the college's new associate dean of students, was charged with overall responsibility for Orientation. One of her duties was organizing Orientation Team members, which she did in a meeting on Tuesday evening. Members of the volleyball team, including twins Jennifer and Jaqueline Ortega '02, arrived a week early for practice, and entertained the public with a clinic on the Village Green during a town concert. The college's newest class of Bonner Scholars, who receive scholarship funds for community service in lieu of work in campus offices, arrived early and gathered on the steps of Chambers for some orientation.
The college also enrolled about 35 new international students this year, who reported two days early for special orientation activities. (l-r) Ana Henriquez of Argentina and Jade Tachie-Menson of Ghana got acquainted in one session, while (l-r) Mario Prohasky of Bulgaria and Mayumi Hamamoto of Japan gave their attention to Sherri Spillman, international student advisor. During a tour of campus with college Archivist Jan Blodgett, the entire group posed on Main Street with the historic signpost that marks their home-far away-from-home.
Associate Dean of Students Ernest Jeffries not only directed pre-orientation activities for minority students, but served as their chef at a cookout. The college enrolled a record number of students from diverse backgrounds this year. About 19% of members of the class are African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and international students. (clockwise from the left) Felicia Browne '05 of Durham, N.C., Erin Stephens of Elkins Park, Pa., Chioma Ohanyerenwa '05 of Washington, D.C., and Demorrio Thomas '05 of Canton, Miss., got acquainted over a game of cards at the Black Student Coalition House. Phia Salter '05 of Goldsboro, N.C., also played a hand or two.
Fittingly, the newest members of the Davidson College family checked in on Thursday morning at the brand-new Alvarez College Union. The 66,000-square-foot building, which will be formally dedicated on September 13, is modeled on a "village piazza" concept that provided ample room for students to circulate through stations to get their Cat Cards, laundry, and post office box key. (l-r) First year soccer players Stephanie Bouts, Garyth Evans, Liz Mannino, Mary Weisskopf, Sara Hobart, and Jane Boer were the first in line when the doors opened at 8:30. Members of the Union Board staffed stations and circulated through the building offering help to the new arrivals. While students ran the gantlet of stations upstairs, parents were ushered downstairs, where a host of college programs and service offices had established information tables. Carrie Levy '05 (l) of Westchester, Pa., and her mother learned about the Student Health Center, and Putnam Ivey '05 of Afton, Va., learned about the Dean Rusk Program in International Studies from Davidson Fellow Irene Middleton '00. Casey Cox '05 of Spartanburg, S.C., picked up her post office box key and found her first batch of Davidson mail.
It seems that every class attracts at least one set of twins, and for the Class of '05 they are (l-r) Kelly and Meghan Fillnow of Hilton Head Island, S.C. Not twins, but feeling like close friends already were new roommates Melissa Patterson '05 of Cary, N.C., and Courtney Bleecher '05 of Camarillo, Calif.
Incoming students also endured the annual Freshman Juggling Survey. Results indicate that about 22% of the members of the incoming class can juggle three balls, including one-year international students (l-r) Monique Antler and Jasmin Bluhm from Germany. College Union Director William Brown, an accomplished juggler himself, gave a quick lesson to Chris Wrobleski '05 of Morgantown, W.Va.
Suzanne Yingst and her mom, Cheryl, of Morganton, N.C., purchased an important addition to Suzanne's wardrobe at the bookstore on the main level of the Union. Patrick Hicks '05 of St. Simons Island, Ga., was already sporting a well-worn Davidson cap, explaining that he determined back in the eighth grade that he would enroll here!
Thursday noon featured a special luncheon for the 46 members of the class known as "Davidson legacies," those whose parents or grandparents also attended the college. That group included Elise, Rutledge '05, and Greg Johnson '72 of Greenville, S.C. Rutledge has already become legend on campus for proclaiming his allegiance to the college by obtaining a tattoo of a Celtic Wildcat on his thigh. Among a growing number of double legacies is Ashley Griffith '05 of Wexford, Pa., who was accompanied by her proud parents Barbara Ashley Griffith '81 and Harry Griffith '80. Students were asked during the proceedings to introduce themselves and their families, so Dorsett Clark '05 of Atlanta introduced her father, Jordan Clark '77.
Thursday afternoon students circulated around campus to various locations for testing and information on college programs. (l-r) Joe Zimmermann of Morgantown, W.Va., Chris Wrobleski of Morgantown, W.Va., and Matt Hanson of Middlebury, Vt., took the Dean Rusk Program's annual international awareness test in Chambers Gallery. Information Technology Services hosted students in Davidson College Presbyterian Church, where they reviewed the college's acceptable use policy and distributed computer account passwords.
Thursday evening concluded with an opening convocation in Davidson College Presbyterian Church. pullout Matthew Monson '05 of Spartanburg, S.C., and his father, Dr. Mark Monson '74, paused on their way to the gathering for an iconic family photo. (l-r) Marc Vinson '05 of Murfreesboro, N.C., Felicia Browne '05 of Durham, N.C., and Chioma Ohanyerenwa 05 of Washington, D.C., arrived early for front row seats. Alumni Director Matt Merrell '84 welcomed the SRO crowd by talking about the experience of the other Class of '05--1905. That class paid $60 tuition, endured the Freshman Revolt of 1903, and saw the advent of electric power on campus. President Robert Vagt '69 also welcomed the throng with assurances that they were all selected because the college believes they can make this a better place. Professor and Choral Director Ray Sprague concluded the gathering by teaching the college alma mater to the new members of the family.
Friday was devoted largely to academics. Students met first as groups with their academic advisors, and then in individual conferences. Mary Sommerville '03 was one of the volunteers who helped students and parents find the right rooms in Chambers Building. Ken Menkhaus, associate professor of political science, spoke with John Carter '05 of Columbia, Md., while Vikram Kumar, associate professor of economics, counseled Andrew Gibbons '05 of McLean, Va.
While students met with professors, President Vagt and his spouse, Ruth Anne, hosted parents for refreshments and a reception in the yard of their home on Main Street. Among those who accepted the opportunity to meet the president were Meg and Tom Meyers of Minneapolis, Minn., who were entrusting Davidson with their son, Peter '05. Guests also included Lisa and Rick Hester of Loveland, Colo., who are parents of Joy '05.
Soon thereafter parents and students were reunited for a farewell luncheon on the front lawn of Chambers. Chris Knowles '05 of Roswell, Ga., sat with parents Rod '67 and Dixie. Dr. Allen Bombard of Oakland, Calif., sat with his daughter, Natalie '05. It was a bittersweet occasion for all, since parents were instructed to depart afterwards. There were more than a few tears shed on the brick walks and manicured lawns as parents bid their cherished children "Godspeed" in this new stage in their lives. Kate McVane '05 of Oak Hill, Va., had lots of farewell hugs for her parents, Lee Ann and Dan, as well as brothers Ben and Sam.
On Friday evening the entire first year class trooped to Baker Sports Center for the annual Freshman Olympics. Some halls, such as third Little, adopted themed dress and/or a hall cheer to show their spirit. Lisa Burr '05 of Gulf Breeze, Fla., and Bekah Diehl '05 of Charlotte painted their allegiance to second Belk on their cheeks! The event pitted halls against each other in contests such as oversized volleyball, crab soccer, and the shoe scramble relay. Third Watts hallmates (l-r) Russ Burns'05 of Banner Elk, N.C., Matt Wagner '05 of San Antonio, Tex., and Andrew Musashe of Winter Park, Fla., show the intensity of the relay competition. The winning men's hall--second west Belk--and winning women's hall--first Richardson-will each be treated to a session of laser tag. The halls that finished in second place were promised a pizza party!
On Saturday students met the human faces of community service. Orientation in recent years has included just three hours of community service, but the college provided this year's class with an enriched experience at seven nearby sites such as Joshua's Farm, Hind Feet Farm, two county parks, and a Cornelius community center. With an extended time period for work, personal testimonials from service providers, and an hour-long reflection on their work, students enjoyed a much more in-depth experience with this institutional imperative.
They gathered early (too early for some!) in Love Auditorium, where they were greeted by Clark Ross, dean of the faculty, and Kathy Bray Merrell '85, associate dean of student life. Ross spoke about the relationship between community service and intellectual pursuits, then students boarded buses to their service site.
One-hundred fifty students helped clear brush and refurbish a pond at Joshua's Farm, a fully accessible retreat center that offers a riding program and rural experience for handicapped individuals. Founder Jerry Matheson greeted students and helped direct their work. He created the retreat in memory of his son, Joshua, who died at age nine of a congenital disease and was confined to a wheelchair as he grew more ill. Katie Bennett '05 of Charleston, S.C., was on the brush crew. (r-l) Christian Hunt '05 of Marietta, Ga., George McDaniel '05 of Summerville, S.C., farm administrator Paul Kirkpatrick, and Eli Benefield '05 of Gastonia, N.C., handled some of the heavy lifting as their group cleared land for more trails. Peter Strand of Salem, Ore., found himself painting on a ladder, while other paint crews worked closer to the ground. (l-r) Meghan Fillnow '05 of Hilton Head Island, S.C., Tamara Gallen '05 of Marion, N.C., Marianna Carpeneti '05 of Juneau, Alaska, and Keeley Roles '05 of Charleston, S.C., worked together at cleaning out the hay loft.
Another group spent the day at Hind Foot Farm, a residential facility for people with brain injuries being built just a few miles from campus by alumnus Marty Foil '85 and his family. (l-r) Julia Clodfelter '05 of Charlotte and Marianne Snow '05 of Houston, Tex., collected rocks for a retaining wall, and other students dismantled a temporary deck at a construction trailer. (l-r) Carrie Saxton '05 of Apex, N.C., Nicole Mah '05 of Howell, Mich., and Patrick Duncan '05 of Albuquerque, N.M., worked the mulch pile along with their relaxed pal, Evans McGowan '05 of Wilmington, Del.
At Smithville Community Center in Cornelius, students sweated under the hot sun to refurbish a baseball field and other facilities. (l-r) Patrick Hicks '05 of St. Simons Island, Ga., and Jonny Bartlett '05 of San Diego, Calif., were on one ladder repainting a backstop, while (top-bottom) Drew Ely '05 of Hillsborough, N.C., and Andrew Schapiro '05 of Lutherville, Md., worked on another ladder at the basketball court.
To conclude the experience, students gathered in small groups with their hall counselors and faculty and staff volunteers to discuss their work experience. Dave Wessner, assistant professor of biology, convened his group in a picturesque spot under the trees at Jetton Park in Cornelius, where they had smoothed trails. (l-r) Christina High '05 of Statesville, N.C., Meredith Fulghum '05 of Rocky Mount, N.C., and Emily Pinson '05 of Bamberg, S.C., were on the work crew at Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson, and concluded their day in discussion with Tom Shandley, vice president for student life. (r-l) Erika Dean '05 of Greensboro, N.C., and Paul Miller, assistant professor of English, were on the crew that worked to build a playground at Davidson Day School.
Sunday was a relatively free day for students until the evening, when first year students gathered in Love Auditorium to learn more about the Honor Code. The afternoon featured the Activities Fair in the Alvarez Union, where representatives of student interest groups set up tables to inform first year students about the wide range of extracurricular options on campus. Will Graham '02 held down the fort for the chess club, while Ben Kegan '05 of Maitland, Fla., and Johnathan Bain '05 of Hendersonville, N.C., asked questions at the Environmental Action Coalition table.
The evening's Honor Code presentation was convened by Will Parker '02, president of the Honor Council. First year students sat at attention as members of the Honor Council were introduced. Hansford Epes '61, registrar and professor of German, delivered the main address about the importance of the code to the community.
Following the talk, students filed to the front of the hall to reaffirm their belief in the Honor Code by again signing a pledge to uphold it. They included Kathryn Rockwell '05 of Pawlet, Vt., and Kevin Saunders '05 of Roanoke, Va. Students then retired in small groups to rooms in Chambers, where Honor Council members like Aditi Sethi '02 explained its fine points and fielded specific questions.
Fully oriented at last, first-year students joined members of the three upper classes on Monday morning in flocking to Chambers for their first classes of the semester. In its crowded halls, they blended in with Jamye Pleasants '02 (center) and other upper class students who have been through it all before. No longer segregated by their rookie status, they embark on the four-year intellectual, spiritual, and emotional adventure that will, as President Vagt said at Orientation Convocation, "change them forever."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson is currently engaged in "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.