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Faculty marshals Kareem Khalifa and Caitlin Myers lead the procession to Convocation at Mead Chapel Sept. 7.

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First-Year Students Welcomed at Convocation [video]

September 8, 2014

MIDDLEBURY, VT. – Members of Middlebury’s class of 2018 gathered with faculty and administrators at Mead Chapel on a beautiful September evening for the traditional opening convocation ceremony. To the sounds of the College carillon, played by George Matthew Jr., faculty in academic regalia processed up the hill, followed by students.

In an evening steeped with history and tradition, President Ron Liebowitz welcomed the class, then walked up the center aisle of Mead Chapel to initiate the traditional passing of Gamaliel Painter’s cane from student to student. The historically significant cane was left to the College by Painter, one of Middlebury’s founders, and has become a symbol of the College’s heritage. Students receive a replica of the cane when they graduate.

“That’s the real one, so make sure it gets back here!” Liebowtiz joked.

Andrea Lloyd, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty spoke next. “I’m delighted to welcome you, the members of the class of 2018 to Middlebury College,” Lloyd said. “If you genuinely engage this remarkable place for the learning community that it is, you will find opportunities for discovery all around.”

Watch the full Convocation 2014 ceremony:

President of the Student Government Association Taylor Custer also greeted the new class, noting that in his three years at Middlebury, he has found highly engaged students. “The opinion of the student body matters in this community,” said Custer. “I strongly believe that being actively involved in this community is one of the best ways to make your four years at Middlebury really enjoyable.”

Faculty heads for each of the commons – the College’s five living-learning communities – asked their students to rise and be recognized. As each group of students stood, the faculty heads gave historic highlights about the figures for whom the commons are named: Jeremiah Atwater, Ezra Brainerd, Reginald Cook, Eleanor Ross, and Erica Wonnacott.

In his final convocation address as president of Middlebury, Liebowitz told the first-year students to consider the true essence of their Middlebury experience. “I encourage you, and really urge you, to be aware of the less evident, yet hugely consequential, gift this college offers that will serve you well throughout your lives: The spirit, the confidence, and know-how to bring the best out of people around you; the ability to collaborate and work well with others to create a special kind of intellectual and learning community that will nurture you for four years, as it has nurtured nearly thirty thousand Middlebury alumni that came before you. Don’t take this special attribute of Middlebury for granted; in fact, make sure to take advantage of it.”

Professor Emeritus and College Organist Emory Fanning played processional and recessional pieces, while the College Choir, under the direction of Jeffrey Buettner, performed two pieces and led the audience in Gaudeamus Igitur and the College alma mater, Walls of Ivy. College Chaplain, the Reverend Laurel Macaulay Jordan ’79 provided the invocation, while recently appointed Chaplaincy Fellow and Muslim Advisor Naila Baloch sang and spoke the benediction.

The 587 members of Middlebury’s first-year class represent 44 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 12 percent are from outside the United States and 26 percent identify as students of color. Fourteen percent are the first generation in their families to attend college, the highest percentage for any recent incoming Middlebury class.

Eighty-five additional new students, or “Febs,” will join the first-year class in February 2015, which will bring the total number of new undergraduates in the 2014-15 academic year to 672.

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