The summer sun was no match for the dazzling display of fireworks that capped off the Class of 2016′s official welcome into the Rice University community at the traditional matriculation ceremony in Tudor Fieldhouse Sunday night. The event that included remarks from university leaders ended with the freshmen’s ceremonial march through the Sallyport and a fireworks display in the Academic Quad.
“It’s a very formal affair,” Will Rice College Master Bridget Gorman said. “It’s not typical of many universities, but I think it’s one of the neatest things we do to welcome our freshmen.”
Opening the evening’s event was Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson, who offered the first words of welcome to the new students.
“This evening is all about welcoming you to Rice,” Hutchinson said. “This is the moment where you make a transition that will affect you for the rest of your life. From this moment forward, this ceremony forward, your life and the life of Rice University are tied together.”
Hutchinson then introduced Rice President David Leebron, who greeted the freshmen enthusiastically. During his remarks, he called the new students “the young immortals of the Rice University Class of 2016″ – an allusion to Rice’s first president, Edgar Odell Lovett, who referred to Rice’s first class in a similar fashion 100 years ago.
“As we celebrate our centennial, you will play an important role in defining not merely who we are as a university, but who we will become,” Leebron said. “You will be changed by your experience here, but we also expect that Rice will be changed by your presence.”
After remarks by Student Association President Sanjula Jain and Association of Rice Alumni President Robert Clarke ’63, students exited Tudor Fieldhouse and walked along a candlelit inner loop toward the Sallyport, the arched passageway in Lovett Hall that leads into the Academic Quad. As each college approached the entryway, a hush fell over the crowd waiting on the other side. As each group of students marched through, the waiting crowd erupted in screams and cheers for the freshmen.
Following the procession, a fireworks display capped off what Wiess College freshman Ian Morell called, “a pretty magical experience.”
“What’s really struck me is the welcoming atmosphere – everyone already knew my name the moment I walked in,” he said. “I definitely picked the right place for college.”
“I have friends who go to other colleges, and they don’t have anything like this,” said Jones College freshman Christian Villescas. “You can feel the tradition in it. I feel like I’m part of something very special, especially being here to celebrate Rice’s 100th anniversary.”
Lovett College freshmen Michelle Lee, Jake Sullivan and Anjali Kumar all agreed that the event was unlike anything they’d ever experienced before.
“It’s been kind of incredible – walking through the Sallyport and hearing everyone screaming and seeing everyone high five you was overwhelming, in a good way,” Lee said.
“It definitely makes me feel even more welcome, part of a huge community,” added Kumar.
Sullivan described it as “unreal, unlike anything I could normally describe to someone else,” he said. “Everything from the chanting to the sense of community in our college to the fireworks was just amazing.