As the first half of their Franklin & Marshall experience comes to a close, more than 200 members of the Class of 2015 gathered in Mayser Gymnasium April 11 to mark a significant academic milestone: the declaration of their majors.
Celebrating with the students at the College's second annual Declaration Dinner were almost 50 faculty members from across the curriculum and 70 alumni and F&M Trustees who answered questions and offered advice throughout the evening. Keynote speaker John Weaver '82 urged the sophomores to use their remaining two years at F&M to build expertise and take intellectual risks.
"In this room are representatives of everything you need to be successful for the remainder of college and even in your life after college. The first thing is, you're surrounded by your classmates, you're surrounded by some of the smartest students in America today … they're going to challenge you," said Weaver, an economics major who went on to earn an M.B.A. and is now managing director of New York-based Hanover Street Capital.
"The second thing is the faculty. The faculty are passionate about teaching you what they are passionate about. They want to see you succeed," Weaver said. "The third thing is the alumni. … The alumni here could be anywhere tonight and they chose to be here to show you how much they care about you and your success."
F&M's alumni from throughout the country will be resources for the students as mentors and to offer advice and opportunities as part of a lifelong network, Weaver told the students.
In all, more than 400 people attended the event, which was organized by F&M's Sophomore Class Caucus with help from the Office of Student & Post-Graduate Development. The Office of the Provost, the Franklin & Marshall Alumni Association and Leadership Council also provided support.
"Faculty and students who participated last year shared with us that this was a wonderful opportunity for them to interact outside of the classroom and to learn more about one another," said Beth L. Throne '95, F&M’s associate vice president for student and post-graduate development. "Alumni told us that they were thrilled to connect with students and discuss the many pathways that a liberal arts education allows students to pursue."
President Daniel R. Porterfield, who addressed the gathering before dinner, called the evening "a defining moment" and a "statement of identity" for the sophomores. He urged them to pursue fields they love, to challenge themselves, and to seek out professors who inspire them. By taking advantage of all the College has to offer, he said, the students would excel as undergraduates and beyond.
"You have the chance to develop an education that absolutely sets you apart from students all across this country because Franklin & Marshall invites you to discover more deeply, and the faculty here want to take you as far your minds will take you," he said. "There are no limits."
Weaver encouraged students to speak up if they ever feel overwhelmed.
"If you need help, ask for it," Weaver said. "Learn from the passion of your professors and take that passion with you into your career."
Shira Kipnees '15, a declared English and aspiring journalist, said she was impressed by the turnout and support for her class.
"F&M is a wonderful community with dedicated students, faculty and alumni," she said. "It is such an honor to be a part of this community, and to see everyone come out for this dinner tonight makes me so proud. At F&M, everyone is there to help you along your journey. You gain more than just an education; you gain a community that will always be a part of you."
Lynn Brooks, F&M's Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and Dance and don of Brooks College House, said she was happy to support the students during this exciting time.
"Choosing a major is an important decision," she said. "It's one step -- a significant but not deterministic one -- in the journey toward becoming a whole human being. I tell students 'Dig into your major, and search beyond it, to spark your thinking and action toward accomplishing the unique task that you can contribute to this world.'"
The emcee for the evening was Sophomore Class President '15, a government major. "I am proud of our class," he said in his closing remarks to the assembly. "You are an incredible group of students and I am excited to see what you will all do."