The excitement always is contagious on our campus over Labor Day weekend, when most of our new and returning students move back to campus after a summer I’m sure most of them feel was too short.
On Saturday, as I walked around meeting parents and students on Move-In Day for freshmen, I was impressed with the organizational effort that it takes to get more than 1,300 first-year students smoothly into the residence halls. There were all manner of pick-up trucks, trailers, station wagons and SUVs jammed with anxious young people and their parents. The traffic flowed along, and our returning students were ready with carts and strong backs to help tote everything inside.
My favorite moment was when one father asked me how to find the nearest hardware store – he needed a new bit for his power drill.
When the heavy lifting was done, a taco bar, bottled water and cookies provided some nutrition.
I wondered when the last time St. Thomas had as few as 1,300 total students, much less freshmen. It turns out that our enrollment was under 1,000 every year from our founding in 1885 until after World War II. When my father came to campus as a freshman in 1929, there were 482 students on campus.
Then came the GI Bill. Only once since the war ended, in 1954, did our enrollment drop below 1,300. We are now more than 11,000, including graduate and law students. I would suspect the eagerness is much the same in students in 2008 as in years past, although there was probably no taco bar in 1885.
Father Dennis Dease joins student Mai Nhia Vang, Vice President for Student Affairs Jane Canney and Tommie during freshmen move-in day on Aug. 30.