A small army of volunteers clad in blue shirts emptied each car within minutes, hauling table-top ironing boards, desk lamps and tote bins full of sweaters up flights of stairs with smiles and single-minded determination.
Inside Brooks Hall, first-year students Claire Collier and Sarah Halprin tried to turn their room into a home away from home with the help of a few potted plants on the windowsill and a vinyl wall decal in the shape of the Lone Star State.
Collier and Halprin are both from Texas — Collier from Seabrook, Halprin from League City — and went to middle school together. They’re not used to the snow that Meadville winters bring.
“I had to shop for a lot of winter clothes,” Collier said and laughed. “I didn’t have any coats, only a hoodie. And I had to buy boots.”
Saturday, Move-in Day for first-year and transfer students, was a day of nervous excitement for Allegheny College’s newest Gators as they met roommates, found their way around campus and readied for the start of classes on Tuesday. As he does every year, President James H. Mullen Jr. helped them settle in.
“It’s one of my favorite days of the year because it’s always filled with such excitement and promise,” Mullen said as he stood outside Brooks. “It’s a great joy for me to know I’m going to share an important part of their life journey.”
In the parking lot at Ravine-Narvik Hall, car license plates told the story of an incoming class pulled together from across the country: Kentucky. Maryland. Georgia. Connecticut. Rhode Island. Outside the Henderson Campus Center, first-year students posed for pictures with the Gator sculpture, a Class of 2021 banner in the background. Inside, students and parents stopped at tables stacked with information about public safety, civic engagement, international education opportunities and more.
Over at Baldwin Hall, volunteers and staff from the Office of Residence Life helped carry in refrigerators, area rugs and overstuffed pillows. Hunter Pietrzycki, an 18-year-old from Parma, Ohio, unpacked a Keurig coffee maker as he waited for his roommate.
Save for a few weeks spent at separate summer camps, Pietrzycki and his sister, Chelsea, had always lived under the same roof, fraternal twins with a shared love of swimming and diving. Now they’re apart — but still only a short walk from each other. Chelsea Pietrzycki’s room is in Brooks.
The siblings were recruited individually by 15 different colleges but chose Allegheny after a fall visit and and overnight stay in the spring. None of the other colleges measured up, Hunter Pietrzycki said.
Allegheny “really cares about students’ individual needs,” he said. “No matter what your dreams are, it helps you achieve what you want to achieve while you’re here.”
Everyone is welcoming on campus, including the professors, Chelsea Pietrzycki said.
“Sitting in on a class, you can tell they’re here for the students and they care about what they do.”
Upstairs in the Campus Center at the Merriman Bookstore, Gail and Tom Donlan of Pittsburgh spent part of the afternoon looking for Allegheny gear to celebrate “a new chapter” in their daughter’s life. They’d just finished moving Rachel Donlan into Brooks.
The day was a bittersweet one, Gail Donlan said. She cried on the way to Allegheny, she said, and expected to cry again on the way back to Pittsburgh.
She cried, too, in the fall, when the reality hit that her daughter would be leaving home, but it’s different this time.
“Now the tears are … tears of pride that she got here,” Gail Donlan said. “She did it.”