New Owls welcomed at matriculation

After a morning of unpacking boxes and getting settled into their residential college, Rice’s new first-year, transfer and foreign exchange students capped off Move-In Day with words of wisdom at the university’s annual matriculation ceremony, followed by a celebratory display of fireworks over the Academic Quad.

“This is the time of the year when we’re welcoming the new members of our family, so what could be more exciting than that?” asked Ted Temzelides, Martel College master and a professor of economics, prior to the ceremony. “It’s really fantastic. We’re very excited about O-Week, and classes will be beginning before we know it.”

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson opened the ceremony by welcoming the Class of 2017 to Rice “once again.” “It’s my guess that at this point you’ve already been welcomed 25 to 30 times,” he said with a laugh. Hutchinson spoke on behalf of the university’s leadership while expressing excitement that the new freshmen “have joined us here not just for tonight, but for the next three, four or five years. We are excited for you to bring your energy, your intellect, your enthusiasm and your creativity to this community.”

Hutchinson then introduced Rice President David Leebron, who noted the students’ intelligence and ethnic and geographic diversity. He encouraged students to step outside of their comfort zone, but not to forget where they came from and the people who helped them along the way.

“You will be changed by your experience here, but we also expect Rice to be changed by your presence,” Leebron said. “Rice is a special and an unusual place — a place where even freshmen are entitled to tell the president how to run the university,” he said, prompting laughs from the students.

Leebron encouraged the students to stay in touch with him, whether by visiting him during his office hours or interacting with him on social media.

After remarks by Student Association President Yoonjin Min and Association of Rice Alumni President Scott Wise ’71, students exited Tudor Fieldhouse and walked along a candlelit Loop Road toward the Sallyport, the iconic 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; then, as each group of students marched through, the waiting crowd of upperclassmen erupted in screams and cheers for the freshmen while fireworks exploded above the quad.

The new students seemed both surprised and thrilled by the enthusiasm of the upperclassmen. Angie Iyinvor, a Brown College freshman, called it “a very interesting and fun experience.”

“It’s very exciting, and it’s been great to meet all of the new students and advisers,” she said. “I really liked the speeches. They were really funny and gave some good advice. And I really like how matriculation is such a big deal here. It’s very exciting and shows how excited everyone is for us to be here.”

Andrew Graham, a Sid Richardson College freshman, called Rice’s matriculation “unique.”

“I’ve never heard of any other university doing fireworks for their first-year students,” he said. “It’s been a pretty fun day, with lots of stuff to do and new people to meet.”

And Graham couldn’t resist a shout-out to his new residential college. “Go Sid!”

Hanszen College freshman Linda Heeyoung Park said that as she arrived on campus earlier in the day, she was shocked at the welcome she received.

“Everyone knew my name,” she said. “And everyone has been so nice and helpful today. As I entered [the quad] this evening, it was so exciting. It’s a memory I’ll never forget.”

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.