Austin College faculty, administrators, and student leaders welcomed some 360 new students to campus last Friday in preparation for the start of the 169th academic year of the College. New student and transfer orientation continued over the intervening days and returning students made their way to campus yesterday and today.
The academic year officially get underway with the traditional Opening of School Convocation in Wynne Chapel Wednesday, August 23, at 7 p.m. The opening address, “You Are That Student!”, will be presented by Dr. Light T. Cummins, Guy M. Bryan Jr. Chair of American History at Austin College.
A prolific writer and sought-after speaker, Cummins joined the Austin College history faculty in 1978. In addition to belonging to the Texas Institute of Letters and the Philosophical Society of Texas, he is a lifetime Fellow of the Texas State Historian Association and a member of the Company of Fellows of the Louisiana Historical Association. He was named a 2006 Minnie Stevens Piper Professor for excellence in classroom teaching and he has received Austin College’s Excellence in Teaching and Leadership Award as well. The author or editor of more than a dozen academic books, plus two best -selling college textbooks, and numerous essays, book reviews, and other writings, Cummins also served as the official historian of the State of Texas from 2009 to 2012.
The freshmen will lead the procession into the chapel, followed by the senior class, in cap and gown, marking the opening of the students’ final academic year and the countdown toward commencement in May. The academic procession ends with faculty and administrators in full academic regalia, with interim president Michael Imhoff following. The college marshal is David Baker, professor of physics.
Student body president Pranav Sheth ’18 will ring the Sam Houston Bell to begin the program, which will include Dr. Michael Imhoff, interim president; Dr. John Williams, college chaplain; Akylah Robinson ’18; Dr. Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres, executive vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the faculty; and Dr. Dawn Remmers, executive director of institutional research and registrar.
A key element of the event is the official presentation and investiture of the Class of 2021, certifying the freshmen as members of the College community. The freshmen’s signed Academic Integrity pledges will be presented to administrators; Jeanne Holland Thoes, a 1984 graduate and president of the Alumni Association Board, will present the Class of 2021 banner to class representatives; and the new students officially will be matriculated and ready to begin classes.
During the event, the Austin College A Cappella Choir, directed by Wayne Crannell, will perform two choral anthems, as well as the Austin College Alma Mater and the choir’s traditional closing, Lutkin’s “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” Lisa Thomas will serve as organist for the evening, providing the organ prelude, processional, recessional, and postlude.
Following the event, members of the Class of 2021 will gather in Wright Campus Center, Mabee Hall, for a “Senior Toast” with President Imhoff offering a celebratory toast to their final year of learning at Austin College.
Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 40 percent of students representing ethnic minorities. A residential student body of approximately 1,275 students and a faculty of more than 100 allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. The College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.