New Class Reflects on Lessons of Civil Rights Movement

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, D.C., members of Franklin & Marshall’s Class of 2017 formally joined the College’s academic community by reflecting on lessons of the Civil Rights Movement.

In addressing the 609-member class at Convocation Aug. 27 in F&M’s Alumni Sports & Fitness Center, President Daniel R. Porterfield cited the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, the culmination of the Aug. 28, 1963 march.

Photos by Nick Gould and Melissa Hess

“If you consistently do your best in everything you try, you will grow, you will change, you will become,” Porterfield said in his remarks, charging students to become agents of change. “And because Franklin & Marshall College educates students to live life, not just make livings, we hope and expect that 50 years from tomorrow, on the 100th anniversary of Dr. King’s ringing dream, you will still be growing, developing, learning human beings.”

The new class is the most diverse in the College’s history, comprising 20 percent American students of color. Fourteen percent are from states outside the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, up from an average of 12 percent over the past three years. Seventeen percent are international students. The new students come to F&M from 32 states, Washington, D.C., and 27 countries.

Scanning the first-year class, clad in their black academic robes, Porterfield said, “I wish Dr. King could be here to see your generation.”

While King never would see desegregation or racial equality before his assassination in 1968, F&M Emeritus Trustee Henry Wiggins Jr., M.D., ’55, P’91 did, and was the only African-American to graduate in his class. Wiggins, who traveled from his home in Chicago to deliver remarks at Convocation, joined King and tens of thousands of marchers in the last of three civil rights marches in 1965, from Selma, Ala., to the state’s capital, Montgomery.

Impressed by the diversity of the class before him, Wiggins recalled when he was a student at F&M. In the 1950s the school was all male and predominantly white. He praised the College for its dedication to academic excellence.

“If you apply yourself, you will get an excellent education that will take you far into the future, and you will be part of the solution instead of part of the problem,” Wiggins said, imploring students to get involved. “Do what makes you happy, but you can’t enjoy the future unless you share in the responsibility of building it.”

Class of 2017 By The Numbers

609 members (304 women, 305 men) from 32 states and 27 countries

1,307 average SAT score

67% varsity athletes in high school

31% musicians

21% first-generation college students

17% international students

12% speak two or more languages

Watch video highlights of Franklin & Marshall’s 2013 Convocation ceremony:

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