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09042012_Convocation_Dierkes Credit: Andrew Dierkes , Andrew Dierkes

One year ago today, freshmen took cover from a rainstorm at the Palestra as Penn President Amy Gutmann declared them the most talented and diverse class Penn had ever seen. Tonight, they did it again.

Dean of Admissions Eric Furda welcomed the Class of 2016 at Convocation last night, ushering in the 273rd academic year at Penn.

Under glowing Palestra lights, about 2,400 freshmen sat in chairs on the hardwood floors and in spectator seats normally devoted to staging basketball showdowns.

A lack of air conditioning — also reminiscent of last year’s Convocation — and an abundance of people left the stadium in sweltering heat. Rows upon rows of attendees fanned their faces with program brochures.

“My message is a simple message … welcome home,” Gutmann told the students. “By any measure, you are the most diverse [class], the most academically successful, and you have exactly one year to enjoy that.”

Gutmann described the many privileges associated with joining Penn’s ranks of students and alumni. She encouraged new students to think of their Penn career not as “a dash to the finish, but as an exploration,” and spoke of “bonds of love and lifelong friendship.”

“Like Moses and Ben Franklin, you are about to begin the greatest journey of discovery you will ever take,” she said.

Provost Vincent Price instructed freshmen to focus on the here and now.

“The rewards are right here, not waiting down the road,” he said.

He also referenced Penn’s notorious pre-professional culture, saying “don’t do things just for the resumé … tonight, you are pre-everything … be unpredictable.”

Lee Doty, president of Penn Alumni and an alumni trustee, called Penn the most beautiful place in the world.

“I cry when I hear the Red and Blue song,” she said to the crowd.

After the ceremony in the Palestra, waves of freshmen and plenty of upperclassmen wielding tupperware enjoyed the dessert reception inside a large tent on Wynn Commons. Strobe lights, the bustling crowd and a live jazz band created a club-like atmosphere.

College sophomore and transfer student Garrett Young said Penn had done a great job in welcoming him with New Student Orientation and Convocation.

College freshman Vanessa Lizarraga thought that after days of orientation, enjoying nightlife and befriending almost everybody in sight, Convocation succeeded in mentally preparing new students to restart their academic careers. “I’m really motivated now. It felt really good to be in that room.”

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