On the morning of Friday, Aug. 30, freshmen and transfer students began making their way to Monteagle Ridge. Upon entering campus, they were greeted by their peers and university staff members anxious to ease any anxiety felt by the newest Purple Eagles as they nestled into their new “homes.”
After all, the theme for Niagara University’s Move-In Weekend (Aug. 30 – Sept. 2) was “Keep Calm and Soar On,” a takeoff on the British government’s 1930s-era catchphrase that has been rediscovered and imitated frequently, especially in social media.
“We wanted to use a slogan that’s familiar to our undergraduate student population, and that also accentuates the idea that they should feel comfortable right away, despite being the newest members of our campus. At Niagara, we call ourselves a community and we take pride in practicing what we preach” said Kevin Hearn, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs.
Following lunch, the NU Class of 2017 gathered in the O’Shea Quad, clad in “Got Purple?” t-shirts and ready to carry on a relatively new tradition, assembling in the shape of a giant “NU!”
From there, it was off to the Gallagher Center for the New Student Convocation, the 11th annual installment of the university’s ceremonial welcome to the newest members of its community.
Among the convocation’s speakers were the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara president; Tim Downs, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs; the Rev. Kevin G. Creagh, C.M., vice president of campus ministry; Robert Kane, Ph.D., history professor and 2012 recipient of NU’s Excellence in Teaching Award; Stefanie Wichhart, Ph.D., associate professor of history and coordinator of NU Beginnings; Michael J. McDonald, ’91; and senior Matthew Nadler, president of the Niagara University Student Government Association, who led the freshmen in a recitation of the NU Student Creed.
“Suck the marrow out of this place because when it’s gone, it’s gone,” advised McDonald, a national sales leader with Deloitte and father of three current NU students. “More than anything else, be happy. Love where you are. This is a wonderful place.”
“Take the time to enjoy Niagara,” Nadler added. “As you begin the next four years, I assure you that they’ll be filled with happiness and sadness. Make those memories.”
The more than 700 freshmen obliged, bidding parents and loved ones farewell before taking part in a weekend chock full of community-building activities.
The students headed off to their first class – “NUB,” a course designed to introduce new students to the culture and heritage of Niagara – and then congregated for another staple of Fall Orientation, the Walk to Whirlpool State Park. The evening continued with the Niagara men’s soccer game, open gym and ice skating, and even moonlight bingo.
And that was just Friday. Saturday was geared toward academics, at least for the early portion of the day, with students attending college meetings and rotating through sessions on campus policies and procedures. By 4 p.m., the focus was back on fellowship, as NU hosted a picnic and carnival until the sun subsided, at which time the O’Shea Quad turned into a “glow party.”
Social media was abuzz with student and parent reactions to the red carpet – check that – purple carpet hospitality that was presented during move-in weekend at Niagara.
“What a well put together and successfully executed move in day!! Thank you,” Judy Burgeson, mother of freshman Steele Burgeson, posted on Facebook.
“Had the most amazing day at @NiagaraUniv setting up my room,” tweeted Katherine Curigliano, ’17. “You guys sure know how to make a girl feel welcome.”
Twitter user @ruralteacherNY was also impressed, posting, “@NiagaraUniv Thanks for a smooth move in process and thanks for all the activities planned for NSO proud mom of member of class of 2017.”
Zach Monell, a freshman from Lockport, was one of many who utilized the #OnTheRidge hashtag to join the online conversation.
“SO much fun at Fall Orientation @NiagaraUniv #ontheridge.”
Meanwhile, Niagara alumni took to social media to reminisce about their four years on The Ridge, lamenting that they were elsewhere as the fall semester got underway.
“Still wishing I was back at @NiagaraUniv starting another year of college #goodoledays #alwaysapurpleeagle” tweeted Joshua Jensen, ’10.
“So jealous of everyone moving into @NiagaraUniv,” typed Ashley Dilcher, ’13. “I miss it every day!! Such an amazing campus and great apartments!”
Of the Walk to Whirlpool, Roxanne (Burke) Smith, ’75, joked on Facebook, “Back in ’75, before fires was discovered, we walked in costumes and tie dyed shirts etc., but we never got a picnic. We got there, turned around and went back!”
By Labor Day morning, upperclassmen were arriving on campus, exchanging hugs and handshakes with classmates, many of whom they hadn’t seen since May.
“I can’t believe I’m a senior already,” remarked Tim Gray on Sept. 3, the first day of classes. “Time certainly flies when you’re having fun.”