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Stanford Report, September 27, 2000
Class of 2004 arrives at Stanford for Autumn Quarter

At Roble Hall, one of the half-dozen residences on his welcome tour last Friday morning, President John Hennessy donned a chef's apron -- a gesture offered in the spirit of the dorm's make-your-own pizza theme.

"Roble Boboli -- it does rhyme," the president remarked, clearly enjoying the festivities. "Welcome to Roble. What a spectacle," he noted as he passed before an arch of red, yellow and white balloons.

President John Hennessy and James Montoya, vice provost for student affairs, greet students at Roble Hall.
(photo: L.A. Cicero)

Such was the tone with which 1,680 freshmen and transfer students were greeted as they moved into their dorms and embarked on their new lives as members of the Stanford community. In addition to the personalized greetings offered by administrators, staff and upperclassmen, students were given a healthy dose of academic and spiritual advice. And while parents got a lot of practical information on everything from student support services to billing and financial aid, the most common message to them was that their children would be in good hands.

Laura Barnard of Milwaukee, Wis., whose daughter Catherine was moving into Roble, was astounded at the welcoming committee's tradition of calling out the names of new students -- whom they'd never met but recognized from photographs.

"The pictures don't look like the people. That's hard to do. It's very impressive," she said.

Throughout the day, the steady rumbles of amplified greetings from residence halls punctuated the hum of busy movement evident everywhere on campus. And if the whirlwind of activity seemed faster than a speeding bullet as you passed Casa Zapata, your eyes weren't messing with you. In line with its orientation theme of "Zapata Superheroes," a dozen dormitory residents flitted about their welcoming duties with black capes fanning behind them.

White Plaza was a pit of business transactions. Booths were set up to assist students with bicycle registration and other services.

A Parents' Club booth, where members debuted a laundry bag with instructions on washing clothes, did double duty as a popular spot for confused visitors seeking directions.

At the Athletic Department open house at Arrillaga Family Sports Center, Beto Lomax, the director of events and sales, greeted visitors from behind a table full of complimentary gifts.

Lomax waved toward a stack of posters of the Cardinal football team and invited students and parents to have them signed by coaches on site. He offered a free Stanford Tree plush toy to freshman Nathan Peterson of Indiana, a Cardinal wrestler who soon stuffed the deep pockets of his cargo shorts with merchandise. As Peterson's burdened figure descended the stairs to the gymnasium where he planned "to lift," freshman Sam Fuld of New Hampshire paused at the hospitality table with his parents.

Mike Wiggins, of Boca Raton, FL, gets a rousing greeting from the dorm staff at Paloma.
(Photo: LA Cicero)

Fuld, a Cardinal center fielder and collegiate baseball All-America pick, had taken his parents upstairs to the baseball suite to say hello and talk to coaches. "I'm overwhelmed with the athletic facilities," he said, adding, "It's a lot of information to absorb at once."

During Opening Convocation Friday afternoon, speakers reminded students of their unique gifts.

James Montoya, vice provost for student affairs, was greeted with loud cheers during his turn at the podium when he joked that the Class of 2004 has the distinction of "driving to the priesthood" Stanford's former dean of admission and financial aid. Robert Kinnally left his position in August to attend a Connecticut seminary.

Members of the acapella group Talisman sing at the Parent barbecue at Wilbur Field
(Photo: LA Cicero)

Angela Castillo, the head orientation coordinator, recalled her freshman apprehensions.

"When I first got here I felt a little out of place in my new surroundings. I was afraid that after one year I would end up back home because I couldn't make it out in the world and at Stanford University. Some of you may be thinking this right now and all of you will probably be thinking it after finals week. Put this thought out of your mind. Don't ever think it again. All of you belong here, and you were smart enough not to turn Stanford down."

Recalling her own arrival at Stanford, Castillo reminded parents that freshman year also would be an adjustment for them.

"As we said our goodbyes on my first day of orientation four years ago, I could see it in my mother's eyes and hear it in my father's voice. Even though I was going out in the world without them nearby, they still saw me as a little girl in their hearts," Castillo said.

She recalled that while she needed her parents' love during her student days, she also "needed to know they saw me as a responsible adult and let me make my own decisions and mistakes."

Parents Susie and Bob Lipps of Orlando, FL at the Parent barbecue at Wilbur field.
(Photo: LA Cicero)

Hennessy drew widespread laughs from the crowd of about 3,000 when he also assured members of the Class of 2004 that in a year where only 13 percent of applicants were offered admission, their acceptance was no "freak accident."

"In fact, some of you may be saying to yourselves right now, 'If I just keep a low profile for the next four years, maybe they'll never realize that they made a such a big mistake.'" Hennessy put that paranoid notion to rest. "Our admission office is one of the best in the country, and we don't make mistakes! So, please, everyone take a deep breath and relax."

As gusty breezes kept palms swaying at the west and east gates leading into the Main Quad, Hennessy offered a top 10 list of the ways the Class of 2004 can make the most of time here.

First, the faculty, which includes 69 new faculty hired in 40 departments in the past year, is a "superb" resource to tap, he advised.

Freshman Susan Tieh. Of Wilmington Delaware, moved into Flo Mo with the help of her parents Spencer and Bess.
(Photo: LA Cicero)

"While I love giving an exciting lecture to a classroom of students, my greatest enjoyment comes when a student visits my office to talk about my research, to ask career advice, to talk about a topic that she is interested in, or to seek help on some topic he cannot grasp," he said.

Hennessy encouraged students to "learn from your fellow students, just as we on the faulty learn from them," and to take advantage of "enhancements" to undergraduate education such as freshman seminars.

The president wrapped up his remarks by lauding the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit that abounds at Stanford and wishing the "infection" upon the new students -- while offering the beautiful campus setting as a place to embark upon their intellectual journeys.

"I hope that you find a passion that matches your own talents, so that you may discover, as I did, something that you can pursue for the rest of your life with enthusiasm and joy," he said.

Also at Convocation, Stanford's new dean for religious life, the Rev. William "Scotty" McLennan Jr., introduced himself to the community, although he won't be on campus full time until January 2001.

To begin anew, he said during his invocation, is "exhilarating and unnerving. It's hopeful and tearful. It's full of promise and it's overwhelming."

Convocation ended with a ringing rendition of "Hail, Stanford, Hail!" by senior Ava-Kathryn Capossela, whose soprano pitches held fast as they soared toward rushing clouds.

At a barbecue for parents later in the day, Provost John Etchemendy highlighted the fertile opportunities students would have on the Farm.

"There is no other time in their lives when your sons and daughters will have the freedom to explore the range of intellectual opportunities we offer here. If they don't explore them here and now, it is quite possible they never will. . . . I know that all of you are exceedingly proud of your children's accomplishments and I know, as a parent, that such accomplishments usually go hand in hand with high expectations. But in the same spirit that you allow your sons and daughters to explore, please allow them the luxury of failure on occasion. Trust me, this is one of the greatest gifts you can give them."

Orientation activities continued throughout the weekend, as parents said goodbye and students prepared to begin classes today.


Veronica Juarez, right, from Houston, winds her way through the crowds at Flo Mo with her mom, Mary.
(Photo: LA Cicero)