Sometime following the 2008 first-year orientation, the residents of third-floor Schnader House gathered to discuss our class year.
“Class of ’08 was cool. It had two syllables.”
“But the Class of ’12?” That just sounded stupid. And in a unanimous decision, we renamed the number and became instead the class of ’Awesome. And with a name like that, May 12, 2012—our graduation day— exceeded all expectations.
The day began in Mayser Gym. As we robed, wrapped ourselves in society cords and used one another as mirrors (“Okay, now tilt your cap the other way—it’s making your hair stick out”), we were, like our first few days on campus, grouped into our College Houses. We came in as part of Schnader and then became members of Weis College House in May 2011.
For mortarboard purposes, we came with silver Sharpies and glitter glue. Not that I ever thought I’d decorate my mortarboard (they look too elegant to write on), but none of us could pass up this last opportunity to demonstrate F&M spirit and solidarity among longtime friends. “SCHNADER HOUSE!” our hats proudly proclaimed—with some variations, including marker drawings of our mascot, Dali the parrot.
A second highlight (my favorite) was the part that photographers captured, and a few wandering parents and bored siblings got to see: the march to Hartman Green, shuffling, sometimes even striding, in full academic costume and to an event-appropriate soundtrack, along pathways where my friends and I did homework on sunny days and between buildings infused with memories of theater, parties, intellectual passion. And thinking that no, maybe I didn't sit on that stone or read the inscription of this statue, and yes I do want one last frozen caramel latte from Jazzman’s, but yeah, we (us, all of us— the Class of 2012) did accomplish something—many things, in fact—on this campus and all over the world during the past four years.
Hartman Green felt like a Fourth of July celebration. There were thousands of people, some sitting, some standing, some standing on chairs— their energy served to quadruple ours. Even the speeches kept our enthusiasm buoyant (Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ice-cream deficit, sympathy for the dorm-basement situation and references to a particular rug—these all cracked us up). And all despite the sun’s best efforts to drown us in our own sweat.
When the time came for me to walk across the stage (and I’ll admit, it was one of the more terrifying things I’ve had to face) I was glad I had chosen Franklin & Marshall. Because at F&M you find yourself discussing 19th-century British history while eating Pandini’s pizza, because with the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House you discover how much you can learn from the words of a second-grade poet, because in Lancaster you explore vintage shops with your best friends and sip glasses of wine at a gallery selling paintings of people and red umbrellas. After a few semesters of F&M classes (“Music and Stage,” “German Fairytales,” “Victorian Novel,” to name a few), you realize that you’ve been comprehending, analyzing and critiquing concepts far more complex than you thought you were prepared for.
And if I had to give a piece of advice to incoming first-years (or even sophomores, juniors and rising seniors), it would be to always toss your own ideas into the discussion. It will teach you so much more than just the core material.
Perhaps one more word of advice: In the springtime, when the breeze makes the petals drift down from the trees, do your reading (and you know you’ll have lots of it) in an Adirondack chair outside Meyran Hall. Trust me. F&M will serenade you.