Olympic gold medalist Claire Donahue encouraged incoming freshmen to pursue excellence at the freshman assembly on Tuesday night.
Donahue, a 2011 WKU graduate and a gold medalist in the women’s swimming medley relay at this summer’s London Olympic Games, was the guest speaker at the assembly in Diddle Arena. The ceremony started at 6 p.m.
“When I was 10, I told my parents I wanted to go to the Olympics,” Donahue said. “As I got older, there were things I needed to do to get better and achieve the goals I set for myself.”
Donahue talked about the sacrifices she made to pursue an Olympic dream.
“I only got better because I was committed to those goals I wanted to succeed at,” she said.
Donahue, who made the USA Olympic swim team shortly before graduating from WKU, challenged students to push themselves beyond their limits.
“Take advantage of the opportunities you have here in what you find you’re passionate about,” she said.
President Gary Ransdell also encouraged freshmen to strive for their goals, particularly graduating from Western in four years.
“Stay focused on the numbers,” Ransdell said. “Fifteen hours per semester, eight semesters, you’ll have 120 credit hours and will graduate in four years… Those four years burned into me a deep WKU spirit.”
Student Government Association President Cory Dodds told the freshmen to make their own traditions in their years on the Hill.
“Traditions and history are not built out of complacency,” Dodds said. “Continue the Hilltopper heritage in your own ways.”
Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, talked about freshmen being active participants in their college experience.
“The favorite question I get from students is this: Why am I here?” Emslie said. “And I tell them, so you can earn a degree… As a staff, we’ll uphold our end of the bargain.”
The freshman class then pinned their “Class of 2016” pin on their right collar, symbolizing the beginning of their college experience, Emslie said. Ransdell explained that upon graduation in 2016, the class would get another pin. Ransdell said this pin, to be put on the left collar, symbolizes graduation and the two pins together represent the “bookends of the college experience”
Megan Smith, from White City, said she’s excited now to start her college experience at WKU.
“There’s so much to be excited about here,” the 18-year-old said. “A reason I chose WKU is because there’s a lot of pride at this school.”
Smith’s roommate, Rachel Guffey, was impressed by seeing her entire class together for the first time, as well as getting to hear Ransdell address them formally as the class of 2016.
“I thought it was cool hearing the president speak,” the 18-year-old Somerset native said. “It seems like he’s on our team and like he’s rooting for us. I feel like everyone has faith that we’ll be successful.”