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University officials told the assembled members of the Class of 2003 to make the most of their Penn educations. The approximately 2,550 students in the University's most selective class ever joined together in a ceremony marking their only assembly as an entire class until they graduate four years from now. "You came as individuals and you will leave as a class," Provost Robert Barchi said when welcoming the freshmen to the University. Convocation was supposed to be held on College Green this year, but University officials moved the event to the Civic Center because of the inclement weather. Wearing formal academic robes, University President Judith Rodin, along with Barchi and Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, joined other administrators in encouraging freshmen to take advantage of the opportunities offered at Penn. In her remarks that opened the program, McCoullum told students that the hall has been home to 54 Penn Commencement ceremonies -- including Rodin's in 1966. The hall resounded once again with Penn pride as administrators and faculty members headed for the stage, accompanied by the Penn Band's rendition of "Pomp and Circumstance." Celebrating past achievements of "the very best students in the country," according to Barchi, was a theme of Convocation as Rodin highlighted the accomplishments of the Class of 2003. "Each student," Rodin remarked in her speech, "brings something special to campus." To name just a few of the qualities and talents this year's freshmen carry in tow, Rodin told students that one of their peers was the junior mayor of Cape Town, South Africa, and another sang for Pope John Paul II. Members of this year's class hail from every state in the U.S. as well as 65 countries, and range in vocation from athletes to journalists to entrepreneurs. "Seeing this made me feel that all my hard work has paid off," College freshman Jimmy Huynh said. Aside from praising students for the work that earned them spots at Penn, Rodin talked excitedly about the future ahead for the freshman class. While some students might feel uncertain about the next four years, Rodin assured them that at Penn, they would "grow in certainty of [their paths] in life." Barchi also spoke about the future, and specifically the transition from high school to college, "a world largely unknown." Following his speech, music filled the Hall once again as the University of Pennsylvania Glee Club sang "The Red and Blue." The evening ended with the faculty on-stage waving their arms back and forth, spiritedly singing the words "Hurrah for the Red and the Blue!" The freshmen, having only known each other for a couple of days, laughed and chatted like old friends before and after the event. Most expressed enthusiasm about orientation activities and Convocation, the last event before today's start of classes. "I think it's nice to see the girls dressed up," joked Wharton freshman Billy Libby. "And the food's good." "Not that good," interrupted Libby's tablemate Whitney Horton, a College freshman. Students served themselves salmon, red meat, salads and bread from buffet tables before the speeches began.

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