8/22/2013 Peter Durantine

Diverse and Community-Minded Class of 2017 to be Welcomed at Convocation

Full of promise and eager to create new knowledge, they arrive at Franklin & Marshall College from 32 states, Washington, D.C., and 27 countries -- 304 of them are women; 305 are men.

They are the Class of 2017, a diverse body whose individual achievements during high school contributed to a class with five business owners, a film producer, beekeeper, circus performer, nationally published poet, Special Olympics coach, firefighter, and seeing-eye dog trainer.

They are varsity athletes and horse riders. Musicians, artists and published writers. They are leaders of sports teams and student government bodies.

"This is the most diverse class in the College's history," said Daniel Lugo, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid at F&M. "We are very excited about the Class of 2017, each of them picked from a very deep pool of talented and diverse applicants."

And on Tuesday, Aug. 27, they will be officially welcomed to the F&M academic community during Convocation. The ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m. and lasts approximately one hour, takes place on Manning Alumni Green, in front of Old Main.

  • For the Class of 2017, the most diverse in Franklin & Marshall College's history, F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield will speak to the need for their participation in the social progress of the nation. Here, last year's entering First-Years mark the beginning of their time at F&M during Convocation 2012. (Photo by Nick Gould) 

The theme of this year's event is making an immediate impact on the world, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did in 1963 during the March on Washington. The Convocation ceremony will reflect on the 50th anniversary of the seminal civil rights event, where King delivered his renowned "I Have a Dream" speech to 250,000 agents of change at the nation's capitol.

During Convocation, F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield will call on the 609 members of the class to make an impact on society -- now, without waiting until after college.

It's a message that will likely resonate with the class. According to F&M's Office of Admission, almost 80 percent of them engaged in some type of community service in high school.

Sara Albrecht-Soto '17 of Lancaster, an aspiring psychology major, said she plans to get involved with the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement. "It provides students with so many opportunities to become part of the Lancaster community and work with people," she said.

Among the many reasons other incoming members of the class said they chose Franklin & Marshall, Jakobi Lehmann '17 of Chicago said F&M's rigorous academic curriculum appealed to him. "This was what I was looking for in college, as I wanted to be challenged, just as I was in high school," he said.

Nearly two-thirds of the incoming first-year students come from public schools, and almost a quarter will be the first in their families to attend college. More than 18 percent of the incoming class is American students of color, and 16.8 percent come from outside the United States.

Among international students beginning this year, Welsh squash player Fiona Murphy '17 said F&M is well regarded in her home country. "This was the place that I wanted to continue my development, both academically and for my future sporting development," Murphy said.

Reflecting on a Milestone

All members of the class will be welcomed into the community with messages encouraging aspiration. In addition to remarks from Porterfield, students will hear alumni speakers reflect on the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington, when King called for an end to racism in the United States.

Little more than three months later, on a foggy Dec. 12 evening, King spoke before a sellout crowd of 3,400 in F&M's Mayser Gymnasium. The "Student Weekly" reported under the headline "King Predicts End of Segregation" that the reverend urged, "We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools."

Emeriti Trustee Henry Wiggins Jr., M.D., '55, P'91 will speak at Convocation of his own journey in March of 1965, when he participated in the third of three landmark civil rights marches that year, from Selma, Ala., to the state's capital, Montgomery.

"When I first heard of the march from Selma to Montgomery I felt that I wanted to do something even if it was just march," Wiggins wrote in an April 1965 article for his hometown newspaper. "I was tired of reading about how human beings were being treated. I was asked what could I accomplish by going, and [I] replied I would stand up and be counted."

F&M will pay tribute at Convocation to the College's African American Alumni Council, founded in 1989 to recognize accomplished African-American graduates and provide African-American students the best experience possible during their time on campus and beyond.

Professor of Sociology Carol Auster, who received the 2011-2012 Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, will offer this year's faculty remarks to the incoming class.

Rebecca Green '14 will deliver student remarks. Last year, Campus Compact, a national coalition of college presidents for making civic engagement an integral part of the college experience, named her a Newman Civic Fellow.

A native of Vermont, Green was inspired to attend F&M after reading as a high school class assignment "The Right to Vote: Rights and Liberties Under the Law," a book by F&M's Grier Stephenson, Charles A. Dana Professor of Government.

Green joined the College's Human Rights Initiative in the Ware Institute after meeting the program's founders, Lewie Briggs '11 and Bryan Dougan '11.

"What Lewie and Bryan were talking about that day was exactly what I wanted to do," Green said in an F&M interview last year. "They talked about making an impact [on human rights issues], and it made me want to get involved."

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