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Student Sendoffs: A First Step into the Lehigh Family

First-year students gather for a group photo at the Philadelphia area incoming student Sendoff held at the home of Susy Shea ’84 in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

“The student Sendoff seemed like a good way to try to make friends before I go into a big, overwhelming orientation experience,” said Francesca Brown ’21, referring to the event which is, for some students, the first introduction to life at Lehigh.

On Wednesday, July 12, 82 students, parents, and Lehigh University faculty and alumni gathered at the Wayne, Pennsylvania, home of Susy Shea ’84 to welcome new members of the Lehigh family to the university. Attendees spent the evening mingling in a casual atmosphere and learning about each other and the school.

This gathering, known as a Lehigh Sendoff, is one of many across the country and now internationally as well. This summer, nearly 1,000 alumni, friends, incoming students, and their parents and families met in 28 different locations in the United States and in India and China. A major component of the Sendoff is the opportunity it provides for incoming students to meet each other and make connections before starting school in the fall.

“Sendoffs are a way for the Lehigh community to come together and welcome its newest members,” said President John Simon ’19P, who attended several Sendoffs across the country this summer.

In addition, members of the Lehigh University Board of Trustees, Parents’ Council, and Alumni Association also attended Sendoffs in their regions to welcome students and parents.

"I believe our long tradition of Sendoffs shows people that Lehigh is an open, transparent, and caring family" said Kevin Clayton ’84 ’13P, chair of Lehigh’s Board of Trustees, who attended the Sendoff at Shea’s home. “Our current students, alumni, faculty, and staff deeply value the strong affinity to the institution.”

Shea, who has hosted a Sendoff at her home for the past five years, agrees.

“I just love seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces. They’re so excited to go to Lehigh,” she said. Shea expressed her desire to continue hosting Sendoffs in the future.

Rohan Ekambaram ’21 said that although he was hesitant to attend the Sendoff at first, it allowed him to connect with at least one other student with similar interests.

 “I now know another student from the marching band who I can talk to and get to know before I go off to school and have a friend at band camp,” he said.

For roommates Jacob Knotek ’21 and Spencer Moros ’21, the Sendoff was an opportunity to meet in person for the first time.

“We were trying to meet up, because we’re dorming together. This is our first time meeting. And it’s nice to meet some other people too,” said Knotek at the event.

Moros added that, although he wasn’t sure what to expect by attending the Sendoff, getting to spend time with his future roommate and talk to other students relieved some of his stress about starting school.

Parents of the new Class of 2021 were also enthusiastic about the Sendoff, because it gave them a chance to familiarize themselves with Lehigh. Audrey and Drew Lombard ’21P, who attended with daughter Abby, said that the Sendoff poses numerous benefits to parents as well as new students.

“The Sendoff is a great idea to welcome us into the college. Not just the students, but also the parents,” said Drew.

“And in this day in age, if they exchange phone numbers, they can text a little bit before they leave in August,” added Audrey.

Connecting Generations

Also attending the events were alumni who returned to welcome the Class of 2021 and to give advice. Some, like Syd Weinstein ’77, are frequent attendees.

“I come to Sendoffs to stay connected, to meet some friends that I’ve met over the years in the area, and to see what’s changing in Lehigh students,” Weinstein said. “I think it builds a lifetime support network: parents meeting other parents, students meeting other students, and seeing that each group cares for the next group.”

Gaige Flint ’12, a member of the Young Alumni Council, came to the Sendoff to reinforce the sense of connectivity between young alumni and current students.

“I think it’s important to have young alumni engagement. We talk a lot about Lehigh being a family and getting that into the incoming students’ minds before they even step on campus for the first day of classes. Lehigh is a place where you stay engaged,” said Flint.

For some attendees, the concept of a “Lehigh family” is literal. Sarah Minardi ’15 ’16G and Rena Zhu ’19 both have sisters who started at Lehigh in the fall.

Minardi went to a Sendoff in the Lehigh Valley when she was an incoming freshman. She continues to go because she feels that her status as an alumna allows her to give new students insight that they may not otherwise be able to get.

“When I was an incoming freshman, I thought it was really useful to talk to current students,” Minardi said. She added that current students and alumni can give advice about specific details of college life that the university isn’t able to prepare students for.

Zhu, who did not attend a Sendoff as a freshman but has gone to several since, said that these events provide a level of comfort for new students.

“I think it’s less scary going into school knowing that you could at least find people you’ve met before,” she said.

Minardi agreed and added, “The more people you know, the better.”

Carina Bonasera ’19

Click here to see a blog posts with photos recapping 2017 Sendoffs.