Great expectations

Class of 2006 urged to contribute to this learning community

"Class of 2006, we have great expectations for you," advised President Lawrence S. Bacow, as he addressed Tufts' first-year students and their families during a sun-drenched matriculation ceremony on August 28.

"I hope you will leave your mark not just on Tufts, but on the larger world we inhabit," Bacow said. "I fully expect that some day, either I or one of my successors will be describing your accomplishments to successive generations of Tufts students. May you each find inspiration during your next four years at Tufts."

© Mark Morelli

The more than 1,200 students who marched on the quad represent one of the most selective groups ever to assemble on the Hill. They were chosen from among a record 14,300 applicants. Forty-six percent had SAT math scores of 700 or above; 31 percent had SAT verbal scores in that range. The average high school class rank for the Class of '06 was the top 9 percent.

"You are about to begin a new chapter in your life, one marked by independence, exploration and engagement in the life of the mind," Bacow said. "What will you make of this experience? How will you grow intellectually and socially? What will you contribute to this learning community? What will you take from it?"

'From analysis comes knowledge'
Bacow's speech was preceded by remarks from Susan Ernst, dean of Arts and Sciences, and Alan MacDougall, president of the Tufts University Alumni Association.

"You have become members of a family," MacDougall told the new students. "Wherever you go in the world from this day on, you will meet people who are alumni of Tufts University who will want to be your friends."

Ernst's remarks began a new tradition for the university, that of a dean welcoming the students. Next year, the honor will fall to the dean of the School of Engineering.

"I wish for you rare and wonderful moments of pure and enduring exhilaration that come from real discovery," Ernst said. These precious moments, she said, can come in both personal and academic life, she said.

Make a difference in the world, she said, and never forget the importance of giving back to others.

In the quest for wisdom, she said, remember that "data is not all. Do not mistake information for understanding," she said. "From analysis comes true knowledge."

'Together as one'
This year's matriculation marked the beginning of Bacow's second year as university president. Shortly after last year's ceremony, the university, along with the rest of the nation, faced the shock of September 11 and the challenge of dealing with the tragedy.

Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow addresses the incoming class. © Mark Morelli

"Today I stand before you as a rising sophomore," Bacow told the audience. "I have learned much about Tufts in the past 12 months. I have learned that this is a caring, supportive and welcoming community. These qualities were self-evident in the aftermath of September 11, when we truly came together as one.

"It was not an easy time for students to be away from home or for parents to be separated from their sons and daughters. This was especially true of our international students," he said.

"However, it was our common bond—our basic humanity and decency—that helped sustain us. As we struggled to make sense of senseless acts and to comprehend the incomprehensible, we drew together. Our faculty worked to find teachable moments. We talked. We listened. We learned from each other. I was incredibly proud of our collective response to these horrific events," Bacow said.

'Enthusiasm and curiosity'
Bacow encouraged the Class of '06 to embrace diversity among the university community and "to treat other members of the community with civility and respect." He urged the new students to embrace diversity of thought, as well: "One sign of intellectual maturity is the ability to accept an intellectual challenge without interpreting it as a personal affront. A great university does not embrace orthodoxy of thought. Rather, we embrace intellectual rigor and discourse."

He also urged the first-year students to get to know their professors. "Your teachers are fundamentally curious people," he said. "You will discover that their enthusiasm and curiosity are infectious."

He told them to take advantage of sports, of student organizations and of their living groups. "Approach every activity at Tufts as a learning opportunity." He encouraged them to explore Boston—especially Fenway Park, where "even Yankee fans are welcome."

And, he reminded them to phone home. "It is up to you to help [your parents] through this period of adjustment," he said.

© Mark Morelli

On a personal note, Bacow told the parents that he and his wife, Adele Fleet Bacow, had just sent their younger son off for a junior year abroad—and that they can understand the mixed emotions many in the audience were no doubt experiencing.

"We all raise our children to be independent, yet when they reach the moment when they are ready to spread their wings, our natural inclination is to cling to them," he said. "I must now ask you to do the hardest thing you have ever done as a parent. Let go."

From near and far
There are 1,285 students from 46 states and 49 countries in the Class of 2006. The states contributing the largest numbers of students are Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and California. The most frequently represented countries are China, Canada, Turkey and Singapore.

International students—including foreign citizens, U.S. citizens living abroad or those with permanent resident status in the United States—represent 18 percent of the class, and more than 5 percent of the class holds dual citizenship. Twenty-four percent of the students have a language other than English as their first language.

Other statistics about the Class of '06:
59 percent attended public high schools; 35 percent attended private schools and 6 percent attended religious schools.

The leading academic interests of the class are international relations, biology, economics, political science and "undecided."

Fifteen percent of the students are enrolled in the School of Engineering.

Nearly 28 percent are students of color. African American students account for 6 percent; Latino students for 7 percent; Native American students for 1 percent and Asian American students for more than 14 percent.

Students listed their religion as follows: Jewish, more than 22 percent; Catholic, nearly 21 percent; Protestant, more than 19 percent; Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim, 8 percent; "other," 5 percent; "none," 22 percent.

Nearly 40 percent of the students will receive a total of $9.5 million in financial assistance from Tufts. In addition, $1.4 million in loans have been made available, along with $604,000 in work-study funds.