News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 31, 2013

Ready to begin: New Rose-Hulman president helps students move in

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Incoming freshman Thomas Dil had no idea that a VIP would help him move into the Bauer-Sames-Bogart residence hall Friday afternoon.

He soon learned that the guy helping him and others carry in boxes, luggage and musical instruments was none other than James Conwell, the new president of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, who began his tenure May 1.

Of course, the small media entourage accompanying Conwell might have tipped people off.

The president, who has a down-to-earth style and a quick sense of humor, soon put Dil at ease. When Dil, a Tampa, Fla. resident, told the president he played the violin, Conwell shared, “I can play the radio.”

Of course, family took photos of Dil and his Brazilian (South America) roommate, Georges Adam, with the college president.

“It’s been nice to meet you,” the president said as he left the room in search of more freshmen, and more stuff to carry.

As Conwell began his work in sweltering heat that registered about 94 degrees, he joked with those nearby, “Where do the cars with the light stuff stop?”

Later, he said, “I love work. I could watch it being done all day.”

Adam, commenting on the president’s hands-on approach to move-in day, said one thing that prompted him to choose Rose-Hulman was the family-like atmosphere. “Everyone is family here,” he said.

His mother, Elena, said that is reassuring to her as she prepares to return home to South America. “It’s good to know everybody supports him,” she said. “I’m sure he will have a great time here and learn a lot.”

Adam said the school’s No. 1 ranking by U.S. News and World Report also caught his attention. For years, Rose-Hulman has been ranked the No. 1 undergraduate engineering college in the nation.  

Dil’s mom, Barbara, was pleasantly surprised that the college president helped her son move in. “I can’t believe he was here,” she said, smiling.

Conwell also helped freshman James Broughton with move-in.

Broughton’s father, John, was impressed. “I like a guy who rolls up his sleeves, and on a 90-plus degree day,” he said. They are from Libertyville, Ill.

Friday was move-in day for Rose-Hulman freshmen, and as usual, it’s a group with some pretty impressive credentials.

• The Median SAT and ACT scores are the highest in more than a decade.

• One in 11 freshmen students has a perfect math score on either the SAT or ACT.

n 93 of the 334 incoming students graduated first, second or third among high schools that rank in class.

• The median weighted high school GPA was 3.97.

The freshmen class also includes a record number of women (125); students from 34 states and nine countries; and a record number of international students, with the largest group from China (48 students).

Others are attending from India, Thailand, Russia, Brazil, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada.

The 561 freshmen and 15 transfer students represent the second largest number of new students in the institute’s history, officials say. That success, plus returning students, means Rose-Hulman will start the academic year with record enrollment.

Total undergraduate and graduate enrollment will be about 2,250, said James A. Goecker, vice president for enrollment management.

The freshmen moving in “are not one dimensional kids,” Goecker said. About half were involved in high school athletics, and many others were involved in music or drama.

The incoming class was selected from a record total applications (5,046).

Campus housing is at 102 percent of capacity, Goecker said, with some tripling of rooms. “Students like being on campus,” Goecker said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or