"Today, you are a Billiken."
That was the message, brightly lit on the scoreboards in Chaifetz Arena, that greeted incoming students and their families during Saint Louis University's New Student Convocation and Family Welcome Aug. 23.
More than 3,500 people attended the annual event. Members of the Class of 2017 heard from a number of University officials, as well as two returning students. Among those who spoke, was William Kauffman, J.D., vice president and general counsel, who was recently named SLU's interim president.
"We are so happy and proud to welcome you to your new SLU family," Kauffman said. "The friends you make here, the teachers who teach and mentor you, the values on which you build will be part of you for the rest of your life."
Ellen Harshman, J.D., Ph.D., interim vice president for Academic Affairs, introduced members of the SLU community who help make the new students' educational experience successful.
"SLU is a close-knit community," Harshman said. "Administrators, faculty, staff and even your fellow students, are here to guide and support you."
Jay Goff, vice president for Enrollment and Retention Management., presented the Class of 2017 to the University, sharing information about SLU's newest students — including the fact that "Emily" and "Michael" are the two most common names among them.
"Of, course, there is nothing common about anyone in this year's class," Goff said. "Your academic achievement, your community service and your leadership put you among the most outstanding classes we have ever welcomed. "
Returning students Yu Cui (Karen), a senior in the John Cook School of Business, and Kate Essig, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, also shared some insights based on their own SLU experiences.
Cui, an international student from Chungdou City in China, told her new fellow students that SLU would give them the tools to succeed.
"As SLU students we know success is not measured by money or power," Cui said. "To be successful, we must make our lives meaningful, we must chase our dreams, and we must lead happy lives."
Essig, a senior from St. Louis, encouraged the Class of 2017 to get involved on campus to make the most of their time at the University.
"Your journey is just beginning," Essig said. "It is up to you to decide how you leave your mark, remembering always that the entire SLU community is with you on the way."
Kent Porterfield, Ph.D., vice president for Student Development, concluded the ceremony with words of advice to the new students on how to be successful Billikens and with a promise to them and their families.
"I know how special these four years are going to be, how much you're going to change, how much you're going to experience life, how wide your eyes will get as you learn new things about yourself, the world and others," Porterfield said. "I want you to know that all of us at SLU are here, not just to greet you, but to support you on your journey."
This fall, SLU is welcoming one of the largest and most academically gifted freshman classes in University history. Among the Class of 2017's impressive credentials is a mean high school GPA of 3.81 and an average ACT score of 27.6.
Geographically, 42 states and 21 countries are represented in this year's freshman class, and nearly 75 percent of SLU's new students hail from outside the St. Louis metropolitan area.
New Student Convocation and Family Welcome was the culmination of the first week of Fall Welcome. The next major SLU tradition is the Mass of the Holy Spirit on Thursday, Aug. 29.
To learn more about becoming a student at SLU, visit BeABilliken.com.