Clad in rain boots and carrying umbrellas, freshmen and transfer students—from Wharton, the College, Engineering and Nursing—poured into the historic Palestra on Sept. 4 to take part in an annual Penn tradition: convocation.

Penn President Amy Gutmann, HOM’04, welcomed the excited, and nervous, students to campus.

“Sooner than you imagine, you will feel at home,” she told the newly minted Quakers. “And what a home—unlike any other—is this place we proudly call Penn.”

Penn is unique. Ranked fifth overall among undergraduate national universities by U.S. News and World Report, the University hosts multiple interdisciplinary programs, a diverse array of courses and extracurricular activities, and opportunities for in-depth research with world-renowned faculty members. The Wharton School’s undergraduate program is ranked first by U.S. News and World Report, and many of its departments rank within the top five of their subfield. Exposure to this mixture of outstanding curricular offerings and student activities offers Penn students a plethora of opportunities.

President Amy Gutmann, HOM’04

President Gutmann encouraged students to take full advantage of these opportunities by deeply engaging with the Penn community.

“Engage your professors, engage with new thoughts and challenging ideas, engage your fellow classmates,” she advised. “Your time at Penn is not a dash to the finish line; it’s a journey of intense exploration.”

Soon—too soon for these eager students—the Class of 2016 will graduate. And when they do, the bonds they formed while on campus will last a lifetime.

“Your connection to Penn will last for the rest of your lives. It will grow richer and deeper with age, and it will allow you access to range of possibilities previously unimaginable,” said Lee Spelman Doty, W’76, president of Penn Alumni.

Doty spoke from experience; she still has lunch each month with her Hill Hall suitemates. The Wharton alumna has fond feelings for her alma mater:

“Now, every time I stroll down Locust Walk, I get goose bumps. I think it’s the most beautiful place in the entire world. When I hear “The Red and Blue” sung, I start to cry. And pretzels and cheesesteaks taste better here than anywhere else.”

Editor’s note: View more photos from Convocation 2012 on the University Communications Flickr feed.