1,100 freshmen headed for first day at Mercyhurst

When the Sisters of Mercy opened Mercyhurst College in the fall of 1926, they only dreamed of a successful, record-breaking freshman class the size of the one that will call Mercyhurst and Mercyhurst North East home for the next few years.

With 700 freshmen due to walk through the gates of Mercyhurst College main campus on Sept. 7, and another 425 settling in at the Mercyhurst College campus in North East, a total of more than 1,100 freshmen will be enrolled at Mercyhurst College in fall 2002.

Meanwhile, upperclassmen will begin arriving the following day, and by the time the 2002-2003 academic year begins on Tuesday, Sept. 10, nearly 3,700 students will be attending classes on the two campuses of Mercyhurst College.

While the admissions numbers at both Mercyhurst College campuses are record setting, Robin Engel, director of undergraduate admissions, said it’s important to recognize the main campus in Erie is experiencing growth in the number of students while simultaneously raising its academic standards.

This fall’s incoming class has an average SAT score of 1071, up 10 points from last year’s average of 1061. In addition, the freshmen have an average GPA of 3.3 and an average class rank in the top third.

According to Engel, the reason Mercyhurst College is attracting such academically talented students is threefold – a burgeoning regional and national academic reputation; enthusiastic referrals from parents, students and graduates; and visionary leadership.

“Without question, every person at Mercyhurst contributed in some way to attracting this large and talented class, ” said Engel. “And on the front lines of our efforts we are extremely fortunate to have a first-rate, gifted and dedicated admissions team.”

To handle the increasing student population, Mercyhurst College added 10 additional faculty to the college roster, bringing to 122 the number of full-time faculty.

In addition to expanding faculty, the college tackled student housing over the summer, acquiring 56 apartment units and building 12 new townhouses, all on Lewis Avenue. Those structures will be utilized for upperclassman housing. Acquisition of the four Lewis Avenue Baldwin apartments means the college now controls all of the original Baldwin Gardens apartments, and has extended its eastern boundary to Wayne Street.

The large freshman class also forced the college to reclaim the first floor of Egan Hall, the campus’ first student housing area. Offices occupying the first floor were relocated, and after the installation of security doors, creation of a front desk and construction of showers and new restroom areas for the students, the renovated residence life quarters include a resident assistant room, a lounge, a residence hall office and 13 double and triple occupancy rooms, all of which will be occupied this fall.

As of mid-August, 1,868 of those students were planning to live on the Erie campus while 180 will be resident students on the North East campus. Those numbers represent a growth of about 150 resident students over last year’s figures.

Making the first day of classes even more exciting will be the debut of the Audrey Hirt Academic Center, which, while not completely finished, will be ready for classes by Sept. 10. Eight classes are scheduled in the Hirt Academic Center on the opening day of the academic year, starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10.

The three-story, all-brick Hirt Academic Center was designed by Weber Murphy Fox architects and houses 16 classrooms, 20 faculty offices and several labs. The education and psychology departments will be on the top floor of Hirt, with the Gabreski Honors Suite and the entrance to the Dr. Barrett and Catherine Walker Recital Hall on the main floor. The college’s communication department, a graphic arts laboratory, the studios for Hurst TV and offices for the Merciad and senior annual, will be situated on the ground floor of the center.

The Audrey Hirt Academic Center will be the third classroom structure on the Mercyhurst campus - the first being Old Main, which was built in 1926 when the college opened with 25 students; and the second being Zurn Hall, which opened in 1968 when Mercyhurst had an enrollment of 600 students.

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