Patrick Henry College
New students process through the Student Life station.
Freshman orientation day at Patrick Henry College saw the usual diverse and talented collection of students and their families from all over the country converge on campus to unpack and check-in, meet new roommates and begin the uncertain process of saying goodbye to parents and siblings and, on other levels, former lives.
According to Bill Kellaris, assistant vice president of enrollment, 90 new students signed in during orientation Tuesday, representing 32 different states and with an average SAT score of 1290. With campus at home students still registering, the total number of new students to PHC would rise to about 100, he said.
“This group is as scholarly and diverse as ever,” he observed. “I sat at dinner with the families of two new students – one a girl from a farm in Nebraska who had never taken a college course and had never been to campus, and the other from a world-traveling family from Pittsburgh. They’re roommates, had never met one another, but they were just having great fun getting to know one another.”
Joshua Zell and his mother flew into Virginia Sunday from Washington state and, standing in line for dinner at the Barbara Hodel Center, recalled the journey that brought him to PHC. “I went to three years of teen camps – strategic intelligence, leadership and vocation, and debate – and just grew very comfortable with the campus and the community. This is where I’ve felt the Lord leading me for some time.”
Rachel Schierkolk, along with her parents Todd and Barb and two sisters, drove in from Wisconsin, where they’re headquartered for a sabbatical year from their 17-year mission to the State of Zacatecas in Mexico. The family returned to the states at the request of their church sponsors, who were fearful of the drug and gang violence plaguing that region of Mexico. They said they’ve been following and observing the College from afar for years. Rachel noted that, while PHC was definitely her father’s first choice, her quest for truth ultimately led her to enroll.
“I wanted to come to a college where I could get answers to my questions, to get the truth,” she said. “As I researched the collegiate landscape, I sensed that most schools were dancing around that central question in their academics and campus life. I came here to get taught and to learn how to apply both knowledge and faith in the world.”
Dr. Graham Walker
Timothy Hsu from Maryland, also a long-term attendee of Teen Leadership Camps at PHC, said the College was the only one he applied to. Laughing, he added, “I’m not sure I’d recommend that to everyone, but I had gotten to know the campus culture through teen camps, knew I wanted to come to PHC and was very comfortable to make it my sole choice.”
At the special orientation dinner welcoming incoming freshmen and their families in the Barbara Hodel Center gymnasium Tuesday evening, President Graham Walker provided students a comprehensive overview of the academic programs and philosophy that guide a PHC education.
“The most fundamental part of a PHC education is its foundation based on the Word of God,” he began, citing Psalm 11:10 and Colossians 1:16-17, and observing how “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Reading from 1 Corinthians 1:30, he shared that “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
“This understanding was once a dominant theme in the best institutions of higher education in the country, and very similar to what we offer at PHC,” he continued, “but today, not so much anymore. Here we acknowledge that Jesus is the gateway of true wisdom.”
Citing the top test scores that have come to distinguish both incoming and outgoing PHC students from peers at many other colleges (as determined by the Educational Testing Service), as well as the influential careers now being pursued by many PHC graduates, he added that, “This level of competence, combined with a heart of love for Jesus, produces unique leaders. It’s a kind of competence that anyone can recognize. These leaders are not just talkers but knowers and lovers of what’s good, and believers in truth, and that Truth is a Person.”
Dr. Michael Farris
College founder and chancellor, Dr. Michael Farris, closed the evening out with an impassioned call to the incoming students to pursue an education with commitment and excellence, but not for its own sake. “I’m expecting you to become leaders who will change the country and to change the world, but not just change for change's sake – but so that the world would be turned around for Christ and for liberty.
“Not everyone is going to be a lawyer, or a politician, or a spy or a journalist,” he added, “but all of us can communicate the heart of Christ to those around us.”
Referring to PHC students and alumni who are now working in ministries related to sex trafficking, child slavery, religious freedom and many other worthy causes for the persecuted internationally, he said, “these are students who are focusing on ‘the least of these,’ who’ve had their hearts broken for the helpless and defenseless around the world. That’s what I hope for, that we become known as the College that charges, educates, and equips its students to stand up and defend those who are defenseless.
“We’re not here to make you smart, or famous, or simply to show you a great time, which you will have at this College,” Dr. Farris concluded, “but to help give you the vision to do what God has called you do for the world, for Christ and for liberty.”
Orientation week continues Wednesday through Friday, with a full roster of activities, talks, chapel and panel sessions, including academic orientation with Provost Dr. Gene Edward Veith and Dr. Walker, a majors fair and a special dinner and introduction to dormitory resident assistants, as well as an orientation to health services, academic advising, parental advising and campus and library tours. Friday highlights will feature a church fair and assorted student activities, and Saturday evening will conclude with an incoming freshmen talent show and ice cream social. Classes begin Monday, August 20.
View the photo gallery of some of the highlights of orientation below.