VALPARAISO | The pipe organ played the song “Praise the Source of Faith and Learning” as new students, faculty and administrators streamed into Valparaiso University’s Chapel of the Resurrection on Tuesday afternoon, with heat heavy and hopes high during the 85th annual opening convocation.
Mark Heckler, president of Valparaiso University, spoke to the full house and welcomed the class of 2017, new faculty, staff, and members of the graduate and law schools.
“I’m confident you will carry on the Valparaiso University tradition of being savvy leaders around the world,” said Heckler, who noted that this year’s entering freshman class boasts a higher accumulative ACT and GPA than the class before it.
He said there are 1,100 students entering Valparaiso University’s undergraduate program, the biggest class since 1977, and students come from 41 states and 20 nations.
The large class numbers bring Valparaiso University’s total enrollment to 4,400, its largest in 32 years.
Heckler said there were 250 students entering Valparaiso University’s graduate school and 280 entering the law school, and 47 percent of those entering law school were from groups underrepresented in the field.
“You’ve all told us you want to be pastors, meteorologists, nurses, criminologists, teachers, and one even said she wants to be the next Mother Theresa in heels. You’re looking forward to meeting new people, making new friends, and gaining independence from home,” Heckler said.
Sophomore Miranda Joebgen, a theology, ministry, and international service major from Park Forest, said she enjoys hearing Heckler's opening words.
“I am going to be a resident assistant this year and so I’m looking forward to working with my residents. I wanted to support my freshmen residents today and see them walk in the convocation,” Joebgen said.
Martha Degner came from Evansville, Wisc. with her family to see her daughter, professor Sarah Degner-Riveros, walk in the ceremony.
“We’ve never seen her walk before so we wanted to come,” she said.
The ceremony included scripture reading, recognition of newly tenured members of the faculty, recognition of faculty and staff who have served the university for 25, 30, and 40 years and the signing of the honor code which binds students to the pledge, “I have neither given or received, nor have I tolerated others’ use of unauthorized aid.”
The honor code aims to commit students to academic integrity and to holding themselves and others to the highest standards.
For Heckler, the day was all about extending open arms to the new students who will call Valparaiso University home in the coming years.
“Valparaiso is blessed with an exceptional incoming class. Welcome. It is great to have you,” he said.