Freshmen welcomed with Bienen's speech, music

    After giving a speech about “the shared pursuit of learning,” President Henry Bienen put away his professor’s jacket for a moment to show off a bit of school spirit. Waiting until a slate of speakers and performers finished addressing the students gathered in Pick-Staiger Hall, Bienen wiggled into a purple Northwestern t-shirt and ambled up to the stage.

    “Go forth, do well, have a great time,” he said, adding with the pump of a fist, “and go ‘Cats.”

    And so the president closed his convocation by officially welcoming the university’s newest freshmen, who descended in purple-garbed waves upon Pick-Staiger Hall in two separate sessions Sunday. The event marked the end of the Wildcat Welcome week, leaving the freshmen with the knowledge that they’re members of “the most academically talented class Northwestern has ever admitted,” in the words of William Banis, vice president for student affairs.

    Banis outlined the demographic contours of the class of 2012. More than 2,000 freshmen, from almost every state and nearly 40 countries, have joined the university; more than half are Caucasian, while one-fifth are Asian. He also touted the incoming academic rigor: a 1432 average SAT, 119 valedictorians and 362 students from the top 1 percent of their high school class.

    In his speech, Bienen encouraged his listeners to put that mental brawn to work. “Challenge yourself, by taking advantage of the diverse opportunities that Northwestern offers,” he said.

    Weinberg professor Dr. Teresa Horton followed Bienen’s speech with a lecture about the academic contours of evolution in honor of this year’s book for the One Book, One Northwestern project, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin. Associated Student Government President Neal Sales-Griffin spoke next, saying he’s looking to bring in events to “try to cultivate the sense of community that will bring us closer to defining our Northwestern.”

    Before, in-between and after the speeches, freshmen were treated to a cappella music from Freshman Fifteen and the trumpets of the campus marching band, and sang along to “Hail to Alma Mater” at the end.


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