On August 25, 2021, the Gettysburg College campus sprung to life, ready to stand as one community and excited for the opportunities ahead. Orange and blue banners hung from Pennsylvania Hall and colorful flags decorated the lawns to welcome families and friends. After an unprecedented year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this long-awaited beginning of a new academic year—in person—was greeted by new and returning Gettysburgians, prepared to take on the great work that lies ahead.
Together, they enter Gettysburg College during one of the most critical times in our history while pursuing an education of consequence that develops intellectual dexterity and a capacity to act.
“You are about to enter one of the most consequential periods of your life—a time of personal and intellectual growth that will be of great and lasting consequence to you in all the years of your life to come,” said President Bob Iuliano to the incoming Class of 2025 at the opening Convocation ceremony. “We promise you A Consequential Education, one that will empower you to lead a consequential life—a joyful life of contribution to the world, and to the lives of others.”
On Move-In Day, Gettysburg College welcomed 640 members in the Class of 2025, who were selected from more than 6,000 applications and hailed from 32 states and 19 countries. In high school, our first-year students were actively involved within their communities. Nearly 70 percent of the class participated in community service, and almost 700 students held leadership positions.
Anthropology and Classics Prof. Benjamin Luley recognized that drive. In his keynote address to the class at Convocation, he talked about the importance of everyone playing distinct roles in their communities, including dating back to the early 1800s when Jack Hopkins was a pillar of Gettysburg’s Black community. Hopkins, initially hired by the College to be the janitor and later oversaw its critical functions, had the honor then of raising the American flag above Pennsylvania Hall, where, today, the Class of 2025 flag flies high.
“A house once stood at this very spot where we are all gathered this afternoon,” Luley told the Class of 2025. “At the time of the Civil War and then immediately afterward, the house was the residence of one Jack Hopkins. Now, when we think about Gettysburg and its importance to our national history, it is easy to think about Abraham Lincoln and the generals who fought here for three days in 1863—and that is important—but so often, the stories of people like Jack Hopkins go forgotten.”
Luley went on to stress the significance of those untold stories, and often silenced voices, to help us learn and shape our perspectives. This fall, he, his colleagues, and Gettysburg students will excavate the land in front of Pennsylvania Hall in an attempt to recover artifacts from Hopkins’ house and better understand his and others’ history here in Gettysburg.
“It is important to employ insights from different disciplines as we seek to confront the challenges and problems of our world,” Luley explained. “In the case of the Jack Hopkins House, while archaeology can provide one important interpretation of Jack Hopkins and his life, archaeology alone is not sufficient to understand the complexities of his story. Other disciplines can provide other crucial insights, including history, public history, Civil War studies, and most importantly, Africana Studies.
“I urge you to think about what you can learn beyond your major and beyond your own specific interests,” Luley continued. “This well-rounded and multidisciplinary approach to your studies will serve you well in your careers, and in your lives as national and global citizens.”
Orientation coordinator Kayla Julio ’22 offered a prime example of doing just that, sharing with the Class of 2025 her path to discovery. In creating her own major—titled neuroaesthetics, a combination of science and art, focusing on the activation of brain neurons in response to color—while also majoring in Spanish, she found it was critical to learn multiple viewpoints.
“Currently, I have the experience necessary to make connections between the seemingly different classes I take and perspectives I learn,” Julio said. “I can pay attention to both the big picture and the tiny details. I can recognize the potential of a blank canvas—and a brain scan!”
It’s about the community at Gettysburg in this historic place that the Class of 2025 will soon come to know, which makes opportunities like creating your own major possible. A Gettysburg College education embraces ambition and offers enrichment.
“Here, you will meet people from many races, backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, geographies, and circumstances,” Iuliano said. “I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity. All it takes is a curious mind, an open heart, and a deep appreciation of the fact that every member of this campus community adds to the vibrancy of our collective experience. It is a privilege to be in a position to know and understand another’s perspective because it offers the possibility that your own perspective may, as a consequence, be expanded, deepened, widened, affirmed, or even changed.”
Julio added, “Remember: Every piece of unfinished work, problem, solution—they are ours to address. … [Gettysburg College] is alive with energy and everyone who takes part in it is alive with passion. I encourage you to seek out that passion, your own and that of those around you.”
Together, as our newest Gettysburgians placed their class pins above their hearts and walked through Pennsylvania Hall symbolizing their matriculation into Gettysburg College, they set out to discover their purpose and place in today’s world.
By Megan Miller
Photos by Shawna Sherrell and Hang Lian
Video by Abbey Frisco