University News

‘OK, you can go now’

August 21, 2023

As the Class of 2026 Induction ceremony concluded, Trish Rooney ’91 wasn’t sure how her daughter would react to the moment of separation — that time when families depart campus and their freshly minted college students begin their academic journeys on The Hill.

The Reese~Shackelford Common was a cauldron of emotion that day in 2022. Smiles. Tears. Excitement. Anxiety. Parents with arms like boa constrictors getting in their final hugs before saying goodbye.

Rooney’s daughter, Suzanne Alden ’26, had been a bit of a homebody growing up in Chicago, the kid who never went away to camps. Imagine her surprise when Suzanne approached her after the ceremony and said, “OK, you can go now.”

“She looked so confident,” Rooney recalls. “She was practically pushing me out the door.”

A day of reassurance

Induction days are long, starting with residence hall move-ins, and they are often filled with pangs of hopeful uncertainty. A sampling of parents who’ve been through the process say families of Class of 2027 students should savor the experience and participate in all the events.

It doesn’t mean there won’t be tearful goodbyes and feelings of melancholy on the drive home. However, it’s a day full of reassurance and clear-eyed reality.

Or, as Heather Pool, chair of faculty, told the Class of 2026 students at the last ceremony: “The next four years are going to be a rollercoaster. Spoiler alert: So is the rest of your life.”

Chrissy Davis plans to attend the Class of 2027 ceremony for her son Henry. And while every student experience is different, she will arrive on campus knowing what to expect. Her oldest son, Sam Davis ’23, graduated from Denison in the spring.

“With Sam, there was the fear of the unknown,” Davis recalls. “Will he make friends? Will he go to class? Will he get along with his roommates?”

Davis remembers crying in a Lake Forest, Illinois, supermarket in the weeks before taking Sam to Denison. In hindsight, she believes the emotions were two-fold — missing their son’s presence around the house and realizing she and her husband were entering a new phase of life. Their nest was starting to empty.

“You look into his bedroom and he’s not there,” she says. “Sam’s presence and energy were no longer in the house.”

But those moments faded, Davis says, especially as she spoke with Sam and understood how much he was enjoying his first year.

“Sam felt comfortable,” she recalls. “We knew Denison was looking out for him.”

Home on The Hill

All parents interviewed strongly encouraged families of Class of 2027 students to stay for the entire Induction day and resist the temptation to leave early.

The afternoon Resource Fair, where parents and students learn what’s available on campus, will prove invaluable. The reception at the Ann and Thomas Hoaglin Wellness Center will provide a casual atmosphere to mingle with fellow families and meet representatives from a variety of Denison offices.

The highlight of the day is the evening Induction ceremony. Students are paraded into the grassy oval behind Slayter Hall and met with warm applause from faculty and staff draped in academic robes.

“It’s an emotional day, but it made me feel like I was part of the process,” says Cara Luse, the mother of Colin Luse ’26. “I loved listening to all the speeches, and I loved what President Adam Weinberg had to say.”

A year ago, Weinberg told the Class of 2026: “You’re going to have those moments of doubt. When those happen, don’t make the mistake of looking around and thinking everybody else is not struggling and you are. It’s not true. Struggling and failure are part of the process. It’s by design, and we’re here to help you work your way through it.”

Luse, of Los Angeles, says parents who went to college must remember technological advances make it much easier to communicate with kids today. She kept every letter her father wrote her at Columbia University. Today, she can text or FaceTime Colin to make sure all is well.

Denison’s fall schedule also allows for visits, including Big Red Weekend, which gives parents a chance to see how their students are adapting. Over the years, first-year parents have far outnumbered parents from other classes, says Mark Moller, the dean of transfer students and former dean of first-year students.

“Big Red Weekend comes at a perfect time not only for the parents, but for the students,” Moller says. “After about a month, first-year students get a little homesick so they really enjoy the visit.”

Rooney is thrilled with the development of her daughter, Suzanne, who spent the summer in Washington D.C. serving as an intern in the U.S Department of the Treasury.

“Suzanne has told us many times, ‘Denison is the perfect place for me,’” Rooney says. “She might be from Chicago, but Denison is the home she loves from September to May.”

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