On the evening before the first day of classes, the newest students got a chance to participate in their first University tradition — Convocation, the ceremonial welcome into the Penn academic community.
Nearly 2,500 freshman and 129 transfer students attended the ceremony, the first time the Class of 2015 marched as a group.
Convocation is considered one bookend of their life at Penn. The class will march together for Hey Day in their junior year, and they will walk together the final time as a class at Commencement four years from now.
Dressed in academic robes, the procession of administrators, deans, faculty and alumni entered the Palestra, as the Penn Band played “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Usually held outdoors on College Green, the ceremony was moved indoors to the Palestra because of rain.
President Amy Gutmann gave the students their first University test by asking them to show their school spirit by cheering after she called out the names of the four undergraduate schools. “College of Arts and Sciences!” “Nursing!” “Engineering!” “Wharton!”
After the raucous cheers, Gutmann encouraged the freshmen to be open to new experiences.
"You make your journey alongside an amazing group of classmates. You will challenge each other to broaden your horizons, to think in new ways and to see controversial issues from different perspectives, including on such fundamental matters as which food truck offers the best fare.”
Provost Vincent Price quoted Benjamin Franklin, saying, “Don’t squander time.” He advised students, "Spend time off line. Go ahead and follow someone, but do it on a bike or on a hike."
In encouraging them to become well-rounded, Price recommended exploring interests outside of academics.
"Make room for new experiences. Go see a play. Or better yet, try acting," he said.
The members of the Class of 2015 hail from 49 states, and the class includes 370 international students from 66 countries, including Australia, Brazil, China, Ghana and India.
Freshman Jerry Sha was excited for the start of this chapter of his academic life.
"The ceremony was grand and inspirational. I'm looking forward to meeting more people," he said.
The excitement in the air in the Palestra reached its peak when the ceremony concluded with the Penn Glee Club leading the students in singing, for the first time, “The Red and The Blue.”
The ceremony was followed by a dessert reception under a tent at Wynn Commons.
Text by Jeanne Leong
Photographs by Peter Tobia
Video by Penn Video Network