Passing the torch: Record-setting Class of 2018 urged to uphold traditions, seize opportunities
Rowan University’s Torch of Knowledge isn’t heavy, Kaila Beckam said. But the responsibility it holds certainly is.
"Was I nervous? Oh my goodness, yes. I felt like I was representing every freshman,” said Beckam moments after she accepted the Torch of Knowledge--Rowan’s symbol of knowledge and leadership—on behalf of the freshman class during the President’s Welcome and Picnic on the University Green.
A psychology major, Beckam was chosen to represent the class through her involvement with the Equal Opportunity Fund/Maximizing Academic Potential Program's Pre-College Institute.
Part pep rally and part academic ceremony, the President’s Welcome and Picnic gave the more than 2,200 members of the Class of 2018 a warm welcome to the University and its traditions. The torch is rich in Rowan symbolism and history, Richard Jones, vice president for student life and dean of students, told the newest Profs.
"The Torch of Knowledge represents an obligation,” Jones said. “It’s your obligation to embrace knowledge. We hope you pass along that passion for knowledge to generations to come.”
Rowan’s Torch of Knowledge dates back to the early 1930s. The passing of the torch, which is featured prominently in the University logo, demonstrates the continuation of the University’s traditions.
Beckam honored that tradition with steady-handed ease. With a smile—and to the cheers of her classmates—she ceremoniously accepted the torch from Student Government Association President Joe Chen, holding it proudly for all to see.
With that, the Class of 2018 officially became part of Rowan University.
"Welcome, the largest and best qualified class the history of Rowan University, to your second home. We’re so delighted you are here and we’re so delighted you have chosen Rowan,” Rowan President Ali Houshmand told the students during the celebration, which began with a parade of freshmen through campus led by the Aqua String Band’s rendition of “Oh, Dem (Brown and) Gold(en) Slippers.”
The largest, most academically talented, most diverse class in Rowan history, the Class of 2018 was chosen from among 10,263 applicants, a University record. The class is 30 percent larger than last fall, with 600 more freshmen this year.
Freshman deposits from Hispanic and African American students both increased by 50 percent over 2013. The average SAT score for regularly admitted students is 1,203.
Words from a distinguished alumnus
With their record-setting profile, the Class of 2018 enters Rowan at a phenomenal time in the growing University’s history, College of Engineering Alumnus Walt Walker said. Walker, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University in 2005 (civil engineering) and ’06 (environmental engineering) respectively, accepted the University’s Distinguished Young Alumnus Award during the picnic.
"Eight years ago, we didn’t have Rowan Boulevard and the new Barnes & Noble bookstore. Embrace those changes,” said Walker, an environmental engineer with Cardno BCM in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
"My five years here planted the seeds for what I would become,” he added, noting that his opportunity to work on a clean water project in Bangladesh as a senior was life changing. That experience led to his current role as president of the Philadelphia Chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a non-profit humanitarian organization that partners with developing communities to design and build sustainable engineering projects, specifically in the areas of water supply and sanitation/public health.
"For you, for your Rowan experience, this will help lay the foundation for what you want to do and what you want to be,” Walker told the freshmen, urging them to make their days at the University really count. “Nothing is better than aligning your work with your beliefs and your passions.”
Though admittedly bittersweet in the knowledge that he’s in his last year at Rowan, Chen, for one, can’t wait to see what the Class of 2018 brings to the University.
"I’m excited to see the next few years, when the Class of 2018 makes strides in their lives at a place I call home,” said Chen, a senior human resource management and history major, who chatted up freshmen at the picnic.
"I can see so much potential with the incoming class. The one thing that remained consistent in my talks with them is that many asked about the opportunities to get involved. A few even mentioned that they will leave their mark at the University.
"I left each conversation loving their ambition,” he added. “My wish for them is to find their passion in life…and to make Rowan a better place.”
Pep and circumstance
During the President’s Welcome, freshmen were treated to renditions of Rowan’s alma mater and fight song, courtesy of the Rowan Pep Band and vocalists, with dancing entertainment from the PROS (Peer Referral and Orientation Staff).
After the ceremony, they enjoyed a barbecue brimming with Jersey fresh foods provided by Gourmet Dining (Campus Dining Services).
The picnic was part of Fall Welcome Weekend/Start Up Smart, programs and initiatives designed to help freshmen settle into campus and make a strong transition—and positive beginning—to their collegiate careers.