Luminaries line the walkway and steps in front of Main Hall Sunday night. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The light that glowed from the steps and walkway in front of Main Hall on Sunday night sent a welcoming message to the more than 400 first-year and transfer students who will be beginning their studies at Lawrence University today.

In a reimagining of the traditional presidential handshake, the students made their way to the president’s house, where President Mark Burstein greeted each one on the lawn – masks on, from 6 feet apart – welcoming them to Lawrence and presenting them with a luminary. The students then brought the luminary to the front of Main Hall, placing it with those of their classmates.

Welcome Week greets first-year students. Read more here.

“Bring Your Light” was the theme. With safety protocols in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the presidential handshake ceremony that usually happens the night before classes begin could not take place in its usual way. Thus, it was reimagined in a way that still allowed each first-year student to be personally welcomed by the president.

“It’s an incredibly important moment in the student experience,” Burstein said. “It gave me a chance to talk with every first-year student.”

The process began before the sun went down, but by the time the more than 400 luminaries were in place, the lights were glowing in the dark, lighting the way into a new journey.

Eighty-six luminaries were placed on the Main Hall steps to represent the first-year students who opted to study remotely during Fall Term. The students who are on campus then walked with their luminaries from the president’s house, traversing campus before placing them along the sidewalk leading from the steps.

Perhaps a new tradition was born.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu