In ushering in the class of 2020 to West Virginia University Institute of Technology, WVU Tech officials welcomed the start of a new school year and the beginning of the end of the college's time in Montgomery.

On a humid and sweltering hot day in Montgomery, new students and their families gathered to launch a new chapter in their lives.

Students are beginning their lives in higher education and parents are watching their beloved children leave the nest and begin reaching for their dreams.

"Today marks the beginning of your educational journey at West Virginia University Institute of Technology," said Richard Carpinelli, dean of students. "For many of you, this may be the first time away from home. Just know you are not alone."

Carpinelli said the faculty, staff and administration are all on hand to help their students.

"If you are doing well, faculty and staff at Tech will be there to pat you on the back and encourage you to reach your dreams," Carpinelli said. "And if you are having difficulty, those same members of the faculty and staff will lead you to help you resolve those difficulties and encourage you to reach your dreams."

West Virginia University Tech President Carolyn Long also spoke to the newest class of students.

"This is a new journey. This is where your journey begins. We welcome all of you to WVU Tech," Long said.

Long also highlighted that the day didn't just signify great change in the lives of the students but also their families.

"To parents, families, friends and relatives, this class of 2020 is going to go through a transition, and we know you are too," Long said. "We know that this is going to be as tough on you in some ways as it is on them."

Further, Long said learning at a higher education institution offers great opportunities, some expected and some unexpected.

"Planning is great, but if you are not flexible, you may miss out on a great deal of this wonderful life," Long said. "Sometimes situations lead you to do or become a person you’ve never visioned."

But, Long said, going to school after high school is a chance to find what it is that you love to do.

"I have a tough job. The professors have a tough job. But when we get up every morning, we are glad to come to work, because it's not work, it's our passion," Long said. "That’s what you need to strive for the next four years to find. Find your passion, what you love to do."

Following the convocation ceremony, students and parents gathered for a "Bon Voyage" picnic on the Tech Mall.

And as rain spattered the crowd and offered only more humidity instead of any chance of a cooler temperature, the spirits of families did not seem dampened by the rain or sweat.

The Layton family from Boone County sat together celebrating the fact that Chris Layton, from Comfort, was the first of his family to attend college.

Both Layton's parents, Amanda and Chris Layton, and grandparents, Terry and Vickie Layton, exuded pride in Chris' achievement of pursuing education beyond high school.

"It's been emotional and an eventful day," said Amanda Layton.

Chris Layton said he was entering the university for an information systems degree. He said he chose Tech due to its being so revered for its top engineering and computer programs.

"We're just so proud of him," Terry Layton said. "We've waited a long time for this."

Carpinelli said despite the heat and parents and students being tired from moving-in day, it was still a great day for WVU Tech.

"It's an exciting time," Carpinelli said about Tech beginning a new era and operating on two campuses.

"We've got to remain cognizant to provide student services on both campuses. It's made us think outside the box," Carpinelli said.

The dean of students said the student life staff will be rotating between campuses making sure all the students' needs are met.

"We want to make all of this is seamless for the students," Carpinelli said.

As for the future in Beckley, Carpinelli said it only means greater things, hopefully, bigger enrollment and being able to serve students even better.

Long said the day had gone on "beautifully."

"Students have been coming and moving in since 8 a.m. this morning," Long said.

Convocation day is always exciting, Long said.

"Every time it's exciting. It's the beginning of a new journey," Long said. "Every year we graduate some and now we bring in a new class. It's fun times. It's exciting to see them at the beginning of this transition."

Long said Tech officials are even running shuttles between campuses to allow Beckley campus students to attend opening weekend events in Montgomery.

As for more advice for the incoming freshman class, Long had this to say: "We go to class. We study. We sleep some. You can't learn if you're so sleepy you can't pay attention. Work hard but play hard."

Long also took a moment to thank the student helpers, faculty and staff who helped pull off the weekend's activities.

WVU Tech Provost Nigel Clark was also on hand to take in the day's activities.

"It is so wonderful and exciting to have freshmen on both campuses here and to see such a strong class in Montgomery," Clark said.

As for Tech setting up in Beckley, Clark said the campus there has seen a lot of preparation recently from setting up faculty offices, getting laboratories ready, and installing modern equipment in the classroom to "get everything ready for instruction on campus."

"We will be introducing new faculty to the Beckley Campus on Monday," Clark said.

New student orientation for WVU Tech will continue throughout the weekend and Monday.

Classes begin on both campuses on Wednesday, Aug. 17.

— Email: bfrye@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @RHFrye

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