I thought it would be a great opportunity for a new president to meet students and families, but I had no idea what the morning would mean.
It was move-in day for the freshmen and new transfer students, the Friday before classes, Aug. 20. I headed out to shake some hands, maybe move some luggage and talk with new students, their moms and dads, their brothers and sisters. What I didn't anticipate was the welcome they were about to receive from the Bucknell community. Dozens of Orientation Leaders and Orientation Assistants in their orange and blue T-shirts joined by Bucknell staff were waiting to greet them. They were offering warm "good mornings" and a phrase I heard a thousand times that day, "Welcome to Bucknell."
The Bucknellians weren't there, however, just to say "hello" to their newest members.They were there to work. Hour after hour, they helped the students move belongings of all kinds into residence halls. Out of cars jammed full of possessions, up flights of stairs and down long hallways, they carried suitcases and computers, laundry baskets piled with clothes, boxes of bedding and books, stereos and lamps, bags of shoes (lots and lots of shoes), televisions both small and big-screen large and one item that kept getting everyone's attention: mini-refrigerators. A competition broke out, or had broken out years ago: Which OL or OA could carry the most refrigerators? That day, one student carried 21.
If there is any doubt about the welcoming nature of this campus it is answered by the fact that one student carried 21 mini-refrigerators into residence halls for new students that he didn't even know.
Later that day, with several colleagues, I had the privilege of addressing an audience of about 1,000 parents and family members in the Weis Center. As I told them, we are honored by the trust they have placed in us by enrolling their students in Bucknell. In my short time here, I have seen time and again, from move-in day to meetings with academic departments, that the entire campus embraces this trust.
The individuals who participated in the move-in — those dedicated orientation volunteers and staff who so helpfully carried the students' possessions — represent all of us who are so proud to see others join this community. We know that when the students leave, it is not their possessions that will matter. What will matter is whether they had an educational experience to treasure, one that prepares them for a lifetime of learning. Thinking of that mission, getting to know the students, faculty and staff who define Bucknell, I am beginning to understand why we say with such conviction to each new class, "Welcome."