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Opening Days 2009 Opening Days 2009 Opening Days 2009

Willamette Welcomes Class of 2013

Today's world is changing quickly - from expanding globalism to climate change to an economic crisis - but a Willamette education will prepare students for a life of meaning and hope in the face of these challenges, President M. Lee Pelton told the incoming class of 2013 Thursday as he welcomed them and their families to campus.

New students and their families arrived Thursday for Opening Days, a five-day orientation leading up to the first day of the fall semester on Sept. 1.

"You will leave this commonwealth of learning clear-headed, tempered by historical perspective, disciplined by the hard truth of science, imbued with personal integrity and with hearts warmed to the transforming power of virtue and beauty," Pelton told the 541 first-year students during his address. Willamette also welcomes 47 new transfer students and 23 international exchange students this fall.

The members of the class of 2013 were chosen from among the largest applicant pool in Willamette's history - 6,024, a 100 percent increase from two years ago - which also means they made it through a tougher field than ever before - only 59 percent of applicants were admitted.

The new students present a strong academic profile - their median high school GPA was 3.75, 49 percent were in the top 10 percent of their class and 53 were valedictorians. They come to Salem from all across the West - about 29 percent are from Oregon, 25 percent from California, 21 percent from Washington and 17 percent from other Western states. Massachusetts, Texas, Maryland, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota are among the other states represented by the students.

Fifty-four percent of all the new students, including transfer and international students, are female. Twenty-five percent of the new students are multicultural or international, showcasing Willamette's commitment to building a diverse community, an important characteristic in today's rapidly changing global society.

Pelton told the new students that they have should exercise the choices available to them, and instead of fighting their fears, they should face them.

"Starting today, make a vow to yourself - not to your parents or friends or siblings or professors - make a vow to yourself to do that which frightens you most," he said. "And therein will lie your victory. ... Rouse yourself to action and engagement with something greater than yourself. Stand for something. Stand up for something."

He told the parents in the audience that he is also the father of a college student and understands their anxieties about this important step, assuring them that the students are in "experienced hands."

Pelton then reminded the new class that they are joining a long tradition of Willamette students who came before them. The oldest university founded in the West, Willamette has built a strong tradition and reputation that today includes recognitions from The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation.

"Today and for days to come, you will move about under the comforting shade of trees planted long ago," Pelton said. "We have all arrived at this great moment together because of countless gestures of hope made by the generations that preceded us - the baby born, the family begun, the university founded, the care and nurturing of our schools, our communities, a wonderful array of faiths and, of course, our families and their families before them."

Before Pelton's address, students had a busy morning moving into their residence halls with the help of their families. Students, siblings, moms and dads lugging mini-refrigerators, giant pillows and boxes of clothing were a common sight around campus.

During the rest of Opening Days, students will learn more about campus programs and attend their first classes for College Colloquium, a first-semester course that allows them to pursue a topic that mirrors their interests. At the end of orientation they will learn more about Willamette's motto - Not unto ourselves alone are we born - as they visit dozens of sites around Salem for community service projects.

The graduate schools also welcomed new classes in August. The Willamette University College of Law has 149 new students, Atkinson Graduate School of Management welcomed 102 students, and the School of Education has 99 new students.