President Ruth Simmons will keep her promise to give every member of the class of 2015 a hug, she said at her welcome speech on the Main Green Sunday. As she has done in the past, Simmons addressed her oration to the “most beautiful class to ever enter Brown.”
While warm and light-hearted at times, her message was also one of humility — something not frequently touted in the halls of academia, she said. “Humility is not always easy to nurture,” she said. “But nurture it if you can because it will open doors for you that otherwise will remain closed.”
Simmons reminded incoming students that, though academic achievement is important, it is only one way to advance society.
She encouraged the new students to be constantly open to learning. “It’s almost impossible to learn well if you believe you have all of the answers already,” she said.
Simmons mingled with students and their parents before the ceremony began, getting a jump-start on her promised hugs and posing for photos. Apple Liu ’15, who posed for a picture with Simmons, said she appreciated Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron’s speech. Bergeron discussed “Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China” by Leslie Chang, which all incoming students were given this summer. The book tells the story of two migrant workers to Dongguan, one of many new industrial cities in China. Liu, who hails from China, said she thinks it’s important for American students to learn about China and said she liked that the book was written from the perspective of a Chinese-American.
Ralanda Nelson ’12, the president of the Undergraduate Council of Students, gave the class of 2015 three “gifts.” First, she welcomed them to their new home. Second, she encouraged them to embrace Brown’s diverse community. And third, she dared them to “be bold” and to “engage in a love affair with this University.”
Jeremy Perlman ’15 listened to Simmons’ speech with his parents, Art Perlman ’80 and Claire Gutekunst ’80. “I hear she has a cult following, and I can see why,”the younger Perlman said. His father agreed: “She embodies the spirit that we were so enthused about when we were here,” he said.
Sydney Island ’15 and Jacy Anthis ’15 — who arrived early to get front-row seats for the speech — were chosen to represent the class of 2015 by accepting the first-year banner. “She’s amazing,” Island said of Simmons. “She’s kind of a pioneer for a way of thinking at these big academic institutions.”
“I think the class of 2015 is going to be really awesome,” Anthis said. “You guys better watch out for us.”