Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

College of Liberal Arts News

Willamette University football players help first-year students move in during Opening DaysWillamette University football players help first-year students move in during Opening Days

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Willamette welcomes the class of 2015

Opening Days

Families took advantage of Thursday’s balmy morning and cloudless sky as they explored Willamette University during the start of Opening Days. Cardinal and gold balloons speckled campus while President Stephen Thorsett warmly welcomed arriving families.

The Panhellenic Council raised money for Greek scholarships by selling donated dorm supplies, and the council’s tent in Jackson Plaza was a popular stop along the way to the Putnam University Center. The dean of Campus Life talked to parents while students picked up orientation packets, keys and student identification.

Blitz the Bearcat brought smiles to excited students and families in the bustling university center. “Yay!” exclaimed a first-year student as she hugged Blitz, who then high-fived student-athletes before settling down to take photographs with waiting parents.  

“Just think, before you know it, it will be you,” said one parent to a first-year student's younger sister.   

After new students checked-in, student-athletes and volunteers were on hand to help move new arrivals into the residence halls or answer questions about the community, campus life or College Colloquium.

Many of the class of 2015 have been on campus and in the community since Aug. 20, helping others by participating in one of the university’s service programs. About 150 of the 623 incoming students spent much of the week in Jump Start, living the university motto, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.”  

Incoming class

Of the 8,175 who applied from 2,125 high schools to attend Willamette, this year’s incoming class is geographically and culturally diverse, including students from 28 states and 17 countries. About one in four of the incoming class identify themselves as multicultural.

More facts about the new class:

  • 35 are valedictorians.
  • Median SAT score is 1830, and the median ACT score is 28.
  • Median high school grade point average is 3.66, with a median class rank of 87%.
  • First-generation students comprise 18% of the enrolling class.
  • Of the first-year students, 23% come from traditionally under-represented groups – matching the highest in Willamette’s history.

Willamette University’s three graduate schools of education, law and management also welcomed more than 300 new students for the 2011-12 academic year.


Pulitzer Prize-winning poet laureate Robert Hass delivers opening convocation

“Intensely try to become human beings,” advised Robert Hass, who delivered the convocation address to the class of 2015. “Human beings are the species that have traded instinct for knowledge.”

Before the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet laureate addressed the crowd of families, first-year students, faculty and staff, Chaplain Charlie Wallace introduced College of Liberal Arts Dean Marlene Moore. She stressed the diversity of a liberal arts education and the importance of developing relationships in order to pursue life’s “big questions.”

Moore welcomed Board of Trustees Chair Steven Wynne, who graduated from Willamette’s College of Liberal Arts in 1974 and College of Law in 1977. Wynne described the significance of his Willamette experience. “I learned everything here about how to make my life,” he said.  

In turn, Wynne noted that one of the board’s essential duties was to select the university’s leader. “When we set out to do our work last fall, the first thing we did was develop the ideal profile,” said Wynne. “As the search people tell you, these candidates that you map out in your mind - don’t really exist. I don’t think that’s the case for Willamette.”

The son of a Willamette University emeritus professor of biology, President Stephen Thorsett’s career reflects the university’s influence. Thorsett earned a bachelor’s in mathematics from Carlton College before completing his master’s and doctorate in physics at Princeton.

“I spent a lot of time on this campus while I was growing up. And as you heard, it was often – maybe usually – not academic time,” said Thorsett. “In fact I was washing dishes at Lausanne, right behind this tent, in a dish room that’s not there anymore.” 

Thorsett described Willamette as a “human scale residential campus” and an “intellectual community” where relationships with professors spark students’ personal growth.

“A truly educated person has acquired knowledge across a broad spectrum – including the arts, the humanities, mathematics, sciences and social sciences – and has come to value learning as a lifelong endeavor,” said Thorsett.

Hass’ speech, entitled “Meaning a Life: How to Become a Reader and a Human Being,” further considered how education enhances humanity.

Hass described the power of literature to “grow great imaginations” and the power of science to change our perspective of humanity’s place on Earth and in the Universe. The inventions of the telescope and microscope raised new questions that demanded a “new kind of imagining,” he said.

Hass described the difference a single comma can make to the meaning of a poem, urging students to read slowly and to think deeply. He reminded students to stop by the woods on a snowy evening and that – as first-year students and human beings – they too had “miles to go before I sleep.”

As poet laureate from 1995-97, Hass promoted literacy because “imagination makes communities.” Hass founded River of Words, which supports environmental and arts education, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005. A MacArthur Fellow and English professor at UC Berkeley, Hass has twice earned the National Book Critics Circle Award.

His collection of poems, Time and Materials, won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

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Dr. Karen KingDr. Karen King

Dr. Karen King: spirituality in the midst of violence

Karen King, Harvard Divinity School professor, author and authority on gender issues in early Christianity, will deliver the 2011 Lane C. McGaughy Lecture in Ancient Studies on Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Willamette University’s Hudson Hall. Sponsored by the university’s Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology, the lecture is free and open to the public.

King’s lecture, “Spirituality in the Midst of Violence: The Heritage from Christian Heretics and Martyrs,” will examine how early Christianity was forged in a violent world. King will illustrate her lecture from accounts of early Christian martyrs, including the prison diary of a mother sentenced to die in the arena and a bishop pleading to be allowed to suffer for God, as well as from theologians who refused to believe that God desires these brutal deaths. King will discuss how Christians dealt with the ethical and spiritual challenges of a violent world by considering these stories and reflecting upon the controversial legacy they left in theological imagination and practice.

King is the first woman to be appointed as Harvard University’s Hollis Professor of Divinity, the first endowed faculty position in the United States. Her research interests are in discourses of orthodoxy, heresy and gender studies. She is author of numerous books, including “Revelation of the Unknowable God,” “The Secret Revelation of John,” “The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle,” “Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity” with Elaine Pagels, and “What Is Gnosticism?”

Books will be available for sale, and the lecture will be followed by a book signing. For more information, contact Andrea Foust at (503) 370-6654.