Filing into the Athletic Complex for Convocation on Aug. 17, the 1,736 members of the Washington University in St. Louis Class of 2023 were excited, nervous and eager to make new friends.
Chancellor Andrew D. Martin could relate.
“I feel like a first-year student myself,” said Martin, who started his term as Washington University’s 15th chancellor in June. “All summer, we’ve been waiting for these students to arrive. Now that they are here, I can’t wait to get to know them.”
The Class of 2023 was chosen from a field of 25,426 applicants and is both diverse and academically gifted. Its members boasted an average SAT score of 1510 and hail from 19 countries and 47 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Eight percent are from St. Louis, 15 percent are Pell grant-eligible and 9 percent are first in their families to attend college. Twenty percent of the class is Asian, 11 percent is black and 10 percent is Hispanic.
Convocation kicked off an expanded Bear Beginnings orientation which included academic experiences, trips across St. Louis and social activities on campus before the first day of classes on Aug. 26.
It served as moment for reflection and celebration. As the students shouted their residential college cheers, Martin took the Convocation stage, joined by deans and faculty fellows as well as speakers Marion Crain, interim provost; Lori White, vice chancellor for student affairs; and student speaker Chibueze Agwu, a senior majoring in philosophy-neuroscience-psychology in Arts & Sciences.
Martin told the students he knew the many questions running through their minds: Why aren’t the residence halls named Gryfindor or Slytherin? What’s in provel cheese? And will their parents ever actually leave? Parents, likewise, had their own questions, like what color to paint their child’s room now that it will be an office.
And then there is the biggie.
“You’re looking around and wondering if you made the right choice to come to WashU,” said Martin, who has chosen Washington University three times — first as a PhD student, then as a department chair and vice dean and, now, as chancellor. “Indeed, you have a host of thoughts, questions and, yes, even feelings about today, about tomorrow and about the years ahead. And the bottom line is that all of you had a choice to make when it came to college. In the end, you chose WashU.
“Likewise, we also chose you — and for a reason. We chose you because we saw something about you that goes way beyond your academic achievements, your test scores or your impressive extracurricular resume. And with that, I want each and every one of you to know that we chose you because you belong here, and that we are committed to ensuring this is a place where each of you will thrive both intellectually and personally. We also chose you because we saw potential — the potential for you to become future leaders in your fields and industries.”
Martin acknowledged the work will be hard but assured students they will come to cherish the people and customs they experience along the way. To that end, Martin introduced a new tradition — a class coin. As students made their way into the newly completed Tisch Park for a post-Convocation party, each received a silver coin stamped with Brookings Hall and the university motto, ‘per veritatem vis’ or strength through truth.
“This coin represents WashU’s investment in you,” Martin said. “I hope you will carry this coin proudly as you consider the remarkable journey you are beginning as a member of this community.”
Read Chancellor Andrew D. Martin’s address here.
Read student speaker Chibueze Agwu’s address here.
Read Provost Marion Crain’s address here.