BETHANY - Bethany College has begun the 2011-2012 academic year with an enrollment of 1,020, the largest in 35 years and also one of its most diverse, said college officials.
At a matriculation convocation held Aug. 20, Bethany College President Scott D. Miller said the student body also is quite geographically diverse, with students from California to Vermont and from countries such as Ghana, Germany and the United Kingdom.
He added the total of new students in each of the last three years are the school's largest since the mid-1970s.
The program began with the incoming students marching through Oglebay Gates up the hill to the college's historic Commencement Hall.
Miller and Gabriela Nunez, president of the Student Government Association; welcomed the students. Also participating were: Darin Fields, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty; and Gerald Stebbins, dean of students.
The convocation concluded with students signing the Bethany College Book of Matriculation, a tradition that dates back to the late 1800s. While the original book was destroyed in a fire, the custom has been followed more than 170 years after Alexander Campbell founded the college.
Miller told incoming students, "You'll discover numerous opportunities to hone your leadership skills and to excel in intercollegiate athletics and campus-based activities on this residential campus, and I urge you to plunge right in. Never again will you have such an unparalleled environment in which to expand your horizons, take calculated risks and find new passions."
"In your four years here, try something new, stretch beyond your comfort zone, reach out to others and, above all, enjoy the journey," he said.
Bethany graduate Greg Jordan, global managing partner at the international law firm of Reed Smith, will give the address at Bethany's fall convocation ceremony on Thursday.
The event, an annual tradition at the 171-year-old College, will begin at 11 a.m. at Commencement Hall in Old Main.
Jordan will be presented with an honorary doctor of laws degree.
G. Ogden Nutting, long-time member of Bethany's board of trustees and benefactor, will be presented with an honorary doctor of humane letters. Nutting serves as publisher of The Ogden Newspapers, Inc. of Wheeling, publisher of the Herald-Star and Brooke Scene.
Miller said, "As we celebrate the start of another successful academic year, I am pleased to place before our students such supreme examples of professional success combined with service and respect for others. Both Greg and Ogden's talented leadership is recognized worldwide, and the college is fortunate to have their guidance during such a critical period of growth."
Jordan, a 1981 magna cum laude Bethany graduate and 1984 cum laude graduate of the University of Pittsburgh's School of Law, has been with Reed Smith since 1984 and has served as the managing partner and chairman of the senior management team and the executive committee since 2001.
A Wheeling native, he has served as chairman of Bethany's board of trustees since 2006.
In 2003, The American Lawyer named Jordan one of the country's top 45 lawyers under 45, The Lawyer named him to the Global 100, a list of the 100 most influential lawyers, in 2005, and he has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 1995.
During the convocation, the college will recognize high academic achievers from the spring semester and announce the recipient of several awards, including the Richard B. Kenney Freshman Leadership Award, presented to a student who has demonstrated outstanding scholarship, leadership and character at Bethany.
Bethany officials also have announced former Bethany president D. Duane Cummins will return to the campus to speak during the school's annual Founder's Day convocation, which marks the school's founding by Alexander Campbell, on March 1.