Advice for new college students ranged from “be a nerd” to “be eager for Mondays” as Winthrop University welcomed the class of 2018 during its traditional Convocation on Monday.
New students, Winthrop professors and special guests filled Byrnes Auditorium and created a long “Blue Line” across the front of campus. The academic pomp and circumstance and Winthrop traditions – some dating back to the school’s Rock Hill founding in 1895 – aimed to send a message of “welcome and good luck.”
State Rep. Gary Simrill, a 1991 Winthrop graduate, told the students not to worry if they don’t meet the desired four-year deadline to earn a degree.
Simrill, R-Rock Hill, joked that he was “able to squeeze seven years into my four at Winthrop ... Some frown upon it, but I can tell you, they are all good times.”
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Faculty leader and English professor John Bird also solicited laughs when he encouraged the new students to “be a nerd,” because “in college, nerds rule.”
College years are “four years of freedom,” he said, telling students to “use that freedom wisely ... live all you can.” Winthrop classes will demand more study time and attention than high school courses, he said, so it is important to “show up and keep up.”
“You never know when a course will change your life,” Bird said.
Winthrop Board of Trustees Chairwoman Kathy Bigham urged the students to understand that “no one can make it on your own” and to rest assured that “everyone here is committed to helping you succeed.”
Acting president Debra Boyd shared Bigham’s sentiment, saying that Winthrop operates as a team. She recognized all faculty and staff members who “are critical to team Winthrop’s success.”
Later this week, Boyd begins her third month as acting president, having assumed the position after trustees fired the school’s 10th president. On Monday, she led her first Convocation ceremony and Blue Line after having participated in the traditions as a faculty member for more than two decades.
Winthrop’s Blue Line began in 1895, when President D.B. Johnson established a tradition of students walking from campus to downtown Rock Hill to attend church on the first Sunday of every academic year. Students back then wore blue-and-white school uniforms as they walked down Oakland Avenue, giving rise to the tradition’s name.
Today, students gather in front of Byrnes Auditorium after Convocation speeches and take a short walk toward Tillman Hall for a picnic lunch and other activities.