WILKES-BARRE — Butch Modzelewski warmed up his solo bagpipe act outside while the Wilkes freshman class gathered in McHale Athletic Center. The students would’ve been hard-pressed to find a finer example of a lifelong learner.
“I started playing it when I was 55,” Modzelewski smiled as he prepared to lead the students across campus to their welcoming convocation. “I’m 69 now.”
Modzelewski led a procession of students in what University President Patrick Leahy said he hopes will become an annual tradition: Walking the first-time students from McHale on South Main Street down the University “East Campus Gateway” toward the freshly upgraded Stark Learning Center and to the Marts Center on Franklin Street.
The walk mirrors what has become the procession for graduation ceremonies, held this spring for the first time at the McHale building. Students got to wear cap and gown promenading from Marts to McHale.
“Hopefully, it will be nice bookends to their time here,” Leahy said as he watched the students come down the gateway, nearly all of them sporting white Wilkes T-shirts — togs they didn’t have to pay for, exactly.
“We like to say they are not free, but they are included,” he laughed.
Upper classmen and faculty lined the gateway, some waving blue and gold pom-poms, most offering to high-five students as they walked by.
It may not have been pomp and circumstance, but it qualified as a warm welcome — though one male freshman could be heard commenting as he turned onto Franklin: “It feels like a Little League baseball game.”
Fear not, frosh, the best is yet to come, after you garner the sheepskin.
“It’s just me today,” Modzelewski said with a smile while waiting for the walk to begin. “For graduation, they hire our whole group.”
That would be the Wyoming Valley Pipe & Drum Band, some 25 strong. At a minimum of 120 credit hours for a bachelor’s degree, that’s roughly five credits for every bagpiper.
But you’ve got to earn them.
Classes start Monday.
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish